April 10, 2015—The Energy Equity Alliance (EEA), an advocacy group for low-income and minority-energy consumers on issues related to safety, affordability, and environmental pollution, recently released a report titled, "LIHEAP Impact on Communities of Color." The report explores the impacts of LIHEAP on low-income communities among socially-disadvantaged minority groups in the United States.
The EEA points out that there is an ever-increasing economic divide among U.S. citizens according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey. As of 2013, the overall rate of poverty was at 14.5 percent. Tellingly, the overall rate of poverty among minority groups was higher than that of the national average. African Americans experienced poverty at 25.8 percent, while Native Americans were listed at 27 percent and Hispanics at 23.2 percent. This is important to note because those who are living in poverty spend a higher percentage of their income on home energy than those who are not, which leaves less household funds available for other necessities such as food or medication. This, the EEA states, illustrates the importance of LIHEAP funding to communities of color since the proportion of those living in poverty is disproportionately greater within these communities. The EEA also pointed to a recent study of six state LIHEAPs by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which found none of the examined grantees were able to provide assistance to more than 25 percent of eligible households.
At the end of the EEA report, the EEA calls on its members and readers of the report to take action to increase LIHEAP funding for their communities. The key strategies the EEA identified included:
- Understanding LIHEAP and disseminating information about the program to local communities;
- Participating in the LIHEAP Action Day coordinated by the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition, either in person, by email, or through online petitions;
- Engaging in low-income energy assistance programs, commissions, or councils formed by members from utilities, nonprofits, and local governments in each state;
- Being active when each state prepares its LIHEAP state plan;
- Spreading the message of how help from LIHEAP can be received, whether it be through community action agencies, tribal offices, etc.;
- Becoming knowledgeable of methods used by states and local entities to supplement LIHEAP funding.
Sources: Press Release, EEA report