The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association has released its annual survey of families receiving help paying their home heating and cooling bills through LIHEAP.
It also released a separate survey of LIHEAP recipients from the state of Connecticut and compared their characteristics and problems affording energy bills to LIHEAP recipients in the Northeast, and to a nationally representative sample of LIHEAP recipients across the United States.
A special focus of the survey was whether the additional funding provided by Congress for LIHEAP during FY 2009 was making a difference in helping poor families pay their energy bills. Survey results confirmed that it had significant positive impacts on low-income families. Congress doubled funding for LIHEAP from $2.57 billion in FY 2008 to $5.1 billion in FY 2009 and FY 2010. The number of households assisted increased by 3.1 million between FY 2008 and FY 2010, while average LIHEAP payments increased from approximately 32 percent to 47 percent of the cost of home heating during this period.
During the period of study, the economic recession hit with full force. The survey results confirmed that the increased funding allowed millions of lower income families to maintain access to affordable home energy:
- Addressing High Unemployment: 60 percent of LIHEAP recipients reported that the primary reason they had trouble paying their energy bill in 2009 was because they had lost their job or had reduced income, this up from 37 percent in 2008.
- Prevent Shut-Off of Utility Service: 61 percent of households reported that LIHEAP assistance was sufficient to prevent shut off of natural gas or electric service up from 54 percent in 2008. If LIHEAP had not been available, 53 percent reported that they would had their home heating fuel or electricity discontinued — up from 48 percent in FY 2008.
- Importance of LIHEAP in Helping to Meet Energy Needs: 93 percent of households reported that LIHEAP was essential in helping them meet their home heating needs —- up from 90 percent in FY 2008 and 74 percent in FY 2003.
- Families receiving LIHEAP include some of the nation’s most vulnerable households: 92 percent have an elderly household member, a disabled household member, or a child in the home. In addition, many suffer from severe medical conditions including chronic bronchitis (21 percent ), heart disease (51 percent ) and asthma (46 percent ).