July 11, 2014 — As summer begins and temperatures continue to rise, more than a dozen LIHEAPs across the country are offering cooling assistance. However, due to the long winter endured by numerous grantees that included a propane crisis in the Midwest, some states have scaled back their offerings after using more funds during the past heating season.
In early June, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the LIHEAP grantee, announced it would not offer cooling funds due to the amount of assistance it provided during the heating season. Traditionally, Indiana LIHEAP has provided a $50 benefit to households that received assistance during the heating season. However, by late June, the Authority announced it would run a crisis program this summer. Eligible households can receive up to $200 if they have a disconnect notice and up to $400 if they need to refill their deliverable fuel tank. Also, some air conditioners are available for households with a member suffering from a documented medical condition.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the LIHEAP grantee, also made changes to its program. Cooling assistance is available to eligible households containing members who are elderly, disabled, less than five years old, or have a medical condition made worse by heat. The Department added a specific qualification when it comes to those households with disabled members, saying the disability has to be certified by the Social Security Administration. Anyone whose status is still pending with the Administration cannot qualify for assistance.
Ameren Illinois helped the state's LIHEAP cooling program by donating 400 window air conditioners. The utility gave the units to nine local administering agencies to be distributed to LIHEAP-qualified households.
In other cooling news:
- The New York LIHEAP dedicated $3 million to buying air conditioners for eligible low-income households with members that have documented medical conditions.
- In April, The Missouri Legislature approved $3 million in supplemental funding for energy assistance. Some of these funds are going towards cooling assistance.
- Nebraska purchased fans with LIHEAP funds that will be distributed in 39 counties to eligible low-income households. Nebraska LIHEAP is also offering cooling bill-payment assistance to eligible households with members over 70 years old or with medical conditions.
- Eligible one-person households in Oklahoma can receive $200 in assistance, while households with two or more are eligible for $250.
- In early July, the Kansas LIHEAP announced it would provide an automatic cooling benefit of $74 to any households that received a heating benefit this past winter.
LIHEAP cooling programs will fill a need this summer, especially for the elderly. AARP is predicting cooling costs will increase five percent for older consumers this summer. The organization says this rise in cost will add an average of $266 to electric bills over the next few months. The cooling costs vary across the country depending on various factors (see chart below).
Sources: Media reports, AARP