A group headed by the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania and the Energy Association of Pennsylvania (EAPA), a utility industry group, has issued a report titled “The Human Impact: How Rising Heating and Cooling Costs Are Affecting Low-Income Pennsylvanians.”
The report contains a series of recommendations for the state’s energy assistance program, including federal and state funding that is “dedicated, permanent and predictable,” a year-round program that can provide cooling as well as heating assistance, and consistent income eligibility levels.
The report noted that federal funding, even though it more than doubled this fiscal year, typically meets only about 10 percent of the state’s need. Energy assistance provided by utilities is substantial, totaling over $365 million during 2007, the report said, adding that those energy providers that do not currently provide energy assistance should be required to do so.
It made no specific recommendations on how additional money could be raised, but cited results from a 2005-06 statewide poll where a majority of respondents said that energy assistance programs are the primary responsibility of federal and state governments and that they (respondents) would support a small tax increase to fund energy assistance.
However, state newspapers pointed out the state is in its worst fiscal crisis in almost two decades and that there is little hope of increased state funding.
The state LIHEAP office announced last week that LIHEAP benefits awarded for the current heating season have increased 16 percent over the same period in the previous year, and there has been an 11 percent increase for those receiving emergency crisis grants.
At a press conference announcing the report, EAPA’s J. Michael Love cautioned that even with the record LIHEAP funding the state received this year: "This funding is great, but not enough. We have not kept on track with general inflation or with rising energy costs.”
Source: EAPA, state newspapers