Heating Programs Ramping Up as Fall Begins
As temperatures turn colder, many states have launched their LIHEAP heating seasons. As they have in the past, some states have multiple enrollment deadlines spread out over a few months to reach targeted constituencies and address their clients' particular energy needs.
According to research by the LIHEAP Clearinghouse for FY 2013, at least 12 states had early application periods for seniors and/or people with disabilities. That trend continues as grantees start their FY 2014 programs.
In late August, several Illinois local administering agencies announced that September would be set aside for enrollment by low-income seniors and people with disabilities. After seniors and the disabled are prioritized in September, households with children under five years old may begin applying on October 1, followed by the application period for all other low-income households beginning November 1.
Oregon and Missouri are among the other states that have already conducted special enrollment periods for seniors and people with disabilities. In Maine, households with either seniors or children less than two years old benefit from increased eligibility guidelines. These households are eligible with incomes up to 170 percent of federal poverty guidelines, while the income standard for everyone else is 150 percent.
The focus on seniors, people with disabilities, and children reflects the federal LIHEAP statute. Section 2605 stresses that programs need to conduct outreach targeting elderly and disabled individuals. The statue also requires that grantees annually report how well they are serving the low-income constituencies of seniors and the disabled, along with households with young children.
Other states are addressing the fuels used by their low-income households. In late August, Connecticut announced it would begin taking LIHEAP applications in September for households using oil, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal, and wood as their heating sources. The first delivery of these fuels to customers begins November 15. Low-income electric customers may start applying for LIHEAP in October.
According to the 2009 LIHEAP Home Energy Notebook, about 30 percent of all Northeast households use fuel oil, and that number increases to over 33 percent for LIHEAP recipients in those states.
For some low-income households, the opening of LIHEAP also means additional opportunities for assistance, if grantees also administer other statewide programs. In announcing its LIHEAP opening, Illinois also promoted its Percentage of Income Payment Plan, while Maryland also encouraged participation in its Electric Universal Service Program.
In New Jersey, teams from utilities, state and local LIHEAP agencies, and other nonprofits spent September conducting outreach events around the state in order to help attendees determine which programs they were eligible for including LIHEAP, the Universal Service Program (USP), or utility fuel funds. The teams also assisted with the application process. New Jersey's application period for LIHEAP and the USP begins October 1.
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Clearinghouse Compiles Ratepayer-Funded Assistance and Efficiency Totals
A new compilation by the LIHEAP Clearinghouse estimates that 33 states and the District of Columbia leveraged over $3.7 billion in ratepayer-funded energy assistance and energy efficiency programs for low-income households during FY 2012.
This compares to nearly $3.2 billion leveraged from these resources during FY 2010, the most recent prior estimate by the Clearinghouse. By comparison, LIHEAP funding for FY 2012 was $3.4 billion and funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program was $68 million.
The total for rate assistance programs in 2012 was just over $3 billion, with another $690 million provided by ratepayers for low-income energy efficiency programs. For 2010, rate assistance totaled $2.7 billion and energy efficiency totaled $449 million.
Many of these programs are funded through a charge or charges assessed on electric and/or natural gas customers, which states variously refer to as public goods, system benefits, societal benefits, universal service, or universal energy charges or fees.
Ratepayer funding is important, because it is by far the largest source of leveraged funding for both rate assistance and energy efficiency. Other resources (such as state government funds, charitable/church and community funds, delivered fuel discounts, and miscellaneous resources) totaled about $409.6 million in 2010.
It is important to keep the following in mind when reviewing the ratepayer-funded totals:
The majority of ratepayer funding comes from these four states: California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey.
In some cases totals reported are the amount collected or budgeted, rather than the amount spent.
In some cases 2012 totals were not available, so the table reflects some 2010 or 2011 data.
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LOW INCOME ENERGY PUBLICATIONS
Texas Electricity Consumers Be Aware of REP Fees, Carol Biedrzycki, Texas Ratepayers' Organization to Save Energy, August 2013. Details how various fees charged by retail electric providers (REPs) in Texas negatively impact ratepayers, especially senior and low-income customers, pointing out that the customers hit hardest by fees are those who can least afford them. It looked at fees charged by retail electric providers in the Oncor service area - 400 cities across 91 counties - using agreements posted by retail electric providers.
Summer Cooling Costs and Older Households, AARP Public Policy Institute, June 2013. Projects that seniors will spend an average of $262 to cool their households this summer, which is only slightly more than the 2012 average of $260, but 28 percent more than 2007. Breaks down cooling costs by region, finding that 40 percent of all residences using cooling equipment are found in the Census Bureau's South Region where seniors are projected to spend "substantially more" on cooling costs than those living in other areas.
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