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NEADA Survey Documents Ongoing Struggles of Low-Income Families

April 28 - The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) has released the results of its 2008 National Energy Assistance Survey. The survey documented changes in the affordability of energy bills, the need for LIHEAP, and the choices that low-income households make when faced with unaffordable energy bills; it also compared the esults with those of its 2003 survey.

The survey confirmed many of the families receiving LIHEAP assistance are struggling to pay their home energy bills and that without LIHEAP many more would be facing shut-off of home energy service. Among the findings of the survey:

  • Record numbers of households reported sacrificing to pay their home energy bills. As compared to 2003 survey, 32 percent vs. 22 percent went without food for at least a day; 42 percent vs. 38 percent went without medical or dental care and 38 percent vs. 30 percent did not fill prescription or took less than a full dose of medicine.
  • Households reported that they took actions to reduce their energy bill that could be dangerous to their health or living situation: 44 percent closed off part of their home; 28 percent kept their home at a temperature that was unsafe or unhealthy; 23 percent left their home for part of the day and 33 percent used their kitchen stove or oven to provide heat.
  • Many were shut-off from power because they were unable to pay their energy bills: 47 percent skipped paying or paid less than their entire home energy bill; 37 percent received a notice or threat to disconnect or discontinue their electricity or home heating fuel; 12 percent had their electric or natural gas service shut off in the past year due to nonpayment; 28 percent were unable to use their main source of heat in the past year because their fuel was shut off, they could not pay for fuel delivery, or their heating system was broken and they could not afford to fix it; 17 percent were unable to use their air conditioner in the past year because their electricity was shut off.
  • High energy bills contributed to the high mortgage foreclosure rate: 28 percent did not make their full mortgage or rent payment; 4 percent were evicted from their home or apartment; 4 percent had a foreclosure on their mortgage; 11 percent moved in with friends or family and 3 percent moved into a shelter or were homeless.
  • Payday lenders  provided loans to many families to pay their energy bills: 15 percent received a payday loan. Of particular concern, 26 percent of those with children under 18 reported taking out a payday loan as compared to 8 percent for seniors.
  • Many of the LIHEAP recipients faced significant medical and health problems in the past five years, partly as a result of high energy costs:  32 percent went without food for at least one day; 42 percent went without medical or dental care; 38 percent did not fill a prescription or took less than the full dose of a prescribed medication; and 24 percent had someone in the home become sick because the home was too cold.

Source: NEADA