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LIHEAP Clearinghouse News Bulletin - December 2014

Winter Sets In, LIHEAPs Begin Heating and Crisis Services

According to research by the Clearinghouse, the vast majority of state grantees are well into their heating programs at this point of the year. For a few, like Oklahoma, their heating programs will likely finish by the end of December. There are also a couple of grantees, including Kansas and West Virginia, that don't start heating programs until after the first of the New Year. For those grantees already operating FY 2015 heating or crisis programs, some common themes emerge.

As in the past, some states employed multiple enrollment deadlines spread out over a few months to reach targeted constituencies and address their clients' particular energy needs. In reviewing FY 2015 plans, the Clearinghouse found nine states offered early enrollment for households having seniors and/or disabled members. In some cases, these early enrollment periods exhausted the LIHEAP funds available at local offices.

In early December, Georgia's Coastal Plain Area Economic Opportunity Authority announced it was unable to open its LIHEAP for general enrollment. It exhausted all of its funds during the early enrollment period for seniors and homebound clients. The Authority said it hoped more funds would become available from the state so it could continue serving clients.

Other local agencies worried that funding wouldn't last very long. Susan McCracken, the director of Social Services in North Carolina's Lincoln County, reported that its crisis program would probably run out of money by the end of December.

McCracken noted that part of the problem was allocation of LIHEAP funds. She said the crisis program was supposed to run throughout the year and historically helps the most families. However, the regular LIHEAP program targets households with a senior or disabled person. McCracken said her department received $344,000 in regular LIHEAP funds, and "we'll never spend all of that, because it is a lower amount of money [per household], and we can only take applications until March." She and her colleagues have asked for permission to transfer leftover LIHEAP funds to the crisis program. However, she said such a change requires approval by the North Carolina legislature.

In some instances, local governments have allocated supplemental funds to help provide energy assistance. In mid-November, North Carolina's Avery County Commission repurposed part of the county’s economic development budget to supplement fuel oil assistance. The state had cut the county's LIHEAP funds by about $100,000, which forced the county to turn away about 100 residents that had stood in line hoping to receive assistance. The commissioners transferred about $63,600 to provide assistance specifically to seniors over 60 years old.

In addition to funding concerns, numerous local administrators faced lines of applicants when they opened their programs. Media reports from Maryland, New York, and Washington D.C. documented long lines at local intake sites. This was especially the case in Georgia. The Telegraph News began one such story stating, "Emotions ran hot as hundreds of people, standing in the cold for hours, were turned away from the first round of energy assistance applications." In multiple Georgia counties, applicants arrived the night before intake started and waited in line all night. In Macon-Bibb County, the line on opening day reached 400 people.

While funding worries and lines provided challenges to some grantees and local administrators, other LIHEAPs anticipated fairly smooth heating seasons. In Vermont, officials cited an improving economy and more stable fuel prices as positives going into the season.

"I cannot remember a year where everything was projected to look as smooth as it does for this year," said Richard Moffi, fuel assistance program chief in the Department for Children and Families. "All the variables for the first time in a long time are going in a positive direction."

In Iowa, the state office proactively helped low-income households that heat with propane before the FY 2015 heating season started. Following the propane crisis of last winter, Iowa LIHEAP helped low-income families pre-purchase nearly $3 million in propane at lower prices during the summer.

Clearinghouse Compiles Ratepayer-Funded Energy Assistance and Efficiency Totals

While putting together this newsletter, the Clearinghouse was also finalizing its compilation of low-income bill assistance and energy efficiency programs for 38 states and the District of Columbia. The Clearinghouse gathered 2013 data for these types of programs that are funded by ratepayers and offered by utilities. For 2013, these ratepayer-funded programs provided more than $4 billion of assistance.

The bill assistance totaled over $3.29 billion, while energy efficiency came in at over $778 million. By comparison, LIHEAP funding for FY 2013 was approximately $3.25 billion and the Weatherization Assistance Program was about $138 million.

Most of these ratepayer 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 non-federal funding for both rate assistance and energy efficiency. For more information about these ratepayer programs, please see the Clearinghouse website.

It is important to keep the following in mind when reviewing the ratepayer-funded table:

  • In some cases, 2013 data was not available and information from previous years is used. It is noted in the table when that it is the case.
  • The Clearinghouse will continue posting 2013 data as it becomes available.
  • The majority of ratepayer funding comes from California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey.

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The Impact of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Participation on Household Energy Insecurity , Anthony Murray and Bradford Mills, Contemporary Economic Policy, October 2014. This academic article empirically estimates the impact of LIHEAP on household energy security, and the study's results indicate that participating in LIHEAP significantly increases the energy security of low-income households.

Asset Limits Are a Barrier to Economic Security and Mobility, Center for American Progress, Sept. 10, 2014. The report questions the use of asset tests, asserting that setting asset limits makes it difficult for families to get the help they need when they fall on hard times. LIHEAP is one of the programs discussed.

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The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, organizations or program activities imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or compliance with HHS regulations.
National Center for Appropriate Technology

News Bulletin, Number 25

December 2014

In This Issue

Winter Sets In, LIHEAPs Begin Heating and Crisis Services

Clearinghouse Compiles Ratepayer-Funded Energy Assistance and Efficiency Totals

What's New on Our Website

Issue Brief: LIHEAP Funds for Furnace Repair and Replacement

FY 2015 State Grantee Plans

Table: FY 2015 Percent of Poverty Guidelines Used by State Grantees

FY 2013 Profiles of Ratepayer-Funded Energy Assistance and Energy Efficiency

Low-Income Energy Events

February 23-27, 2015. NASCSP Mid-Winter Training Conference, Arlington, VA. See the NASCSP website for more details.

March 23-24, 2015. NEADA Winter Meeting, Washington D.C. See NEADA website for agenda and registration information.

March 25, 2015. Save the Date. National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition's "LIHEAP Action Day 2015," Washington D.C.

June 21-22, 2015. Save the Date. NEADA Summer Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

June 22-24, 2015.

Save the Date. National Energy and Utility Affordability Conference, Baltimore, MD.


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