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LIHEAPnetworker Issue #64

LIHEAPnetworker Issue #64

National Center for Appropriate Technology

News Bulletin
Number 4
September 2009

New Jersey Uses Automatic Enrollment to Serve More Low-Income Elderly

In FY 2009, the state of New Jersey automatically enrolled over 54,000 low-income elderly people into LIHEAP through database exchanges with the agencies that administer the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and the state’s own Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) programs. Both programs have income eligibility requirements that are lower than New Jersey’s LIHEAP maximum of 225 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

Over $10 million in LIHEAP funds helped these low-income elderly in 2009, a group that otherwise might not have known about LIHEAP, according to Jim Dieterle of the New Jersey AARP, which was instrumental in bringing about the automatic enrollment initiative, and Jose Sanchez, New Jersey state LIHEAP director. Dieterle said AARP sought the program in New Jersey because surveys showed the state’s elderly were underserved by LIHEAP. As a result of the automatic enrollment, New Jersey has gone from one of the bottom 10 states in reaching low-income elderly to among the top third.

According to Dieterle, the program is beneficial because it helps vulnerable low-income elderly avoid hard choices between heating and eating, and it is administratively efficient because it uses computer matches to enroll households.

In FY 2009, the state provided the automatic enrollees a LIHEAP benefit of $250 for homeowners and $125 for renters; in FY 2010, their benefits will be based on the state’s LIHEAP matrix, which takes into account household size, region, fuel type, and energy burden.

For more information, contact Jim Dieterle, 609-452-3919, or Jose Sanchez,

Illinois to Roll Out First Year of New Payment Plan

A percentage of income payment plan (PIPP) for low-income natural gas and electricity consumers in Illinois will get underway early next year. Legislation to create a PIPP had long been in the making and was signed into law July 10, 2009. This is the second PIPP for the state, which had one in operation from 1985-1991.

The PIPP will begin as a small pilot February 2010, with full implementation expected by September 2011. Participants will pay no more than 6 percent of their incomes for gas and electric service and the PIPP will also include an arrearage reduction program and client education. The maximum PIPP benefit is $1,800 per year.

Program funding will come through LIHEAP and an existing meters charge that currently funds low-income energy assistance and energy efficiency at about $75 million annually. SB 1918 increases the meters charge by about 20 percent, from 40 cents to 48 cents for residential customers and a comparable increase for commercial/industrial customers. Utilities will also make a one-time $22 million contribution toward program costs, along with $9 million in redirected funds from an electric rate relief settlement in 2007.

Under the arrearage reduction component, participants who make their monthly PIPP payments on time will receive a monthly credit amounting to 1/12th of their past due bills, up to $1,000 per year for gas bills and the same amount for electric bills. The PIPP will also include client education to inform customers about the PIPP and about their rights and responsibilities under the program. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the LIHEAP and weatherization grantee, will administer the program and it will be coordinated with LIHEAP, with income eligibility the same as LIIHEAP - up to 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

For more information, see the PIPP fact sheet.

Colorado Energy Assistance Evaluation Released

Possibly the most thorough evaluation ever conducted of a state LIHEAP program was released earlier this year from the state of Colorado. The 170-page CO LEAP Service Delivery Evaluation Final Report was completed in February 2009 by APPRISE.

Legislation passed in 2008 legislation required that the Colorado Governor’s Commission on Low-Income Energy Assistance make recommendations regarding any necessary legislative changes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the state’s low-income energy assistance services. Colorado is somewhat unique in that in addition to LIHEAP, it has a statewide fuel fund, Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), which also provides energy assistance, primarily in emergencies, and operates year round, while LIHEAP operates seasonally.

APPRISE’s research included analysis of American Community Survey data, the Colorado LIHEAP database, and the EOC database; review and assessment of current LIHEAP procedures and implementation; surveys with participating and non-participating low-income households; and interviews with program managers at the state and agency level.

The study provided a series of recommendations for both programs in order to increase their efficiencies and coordination, to lessen confusion among clients, and to increase awareness of all low-income energy resources.

Low-Income Energy Events

November 1-6, 2009: Combined CIF & NCAF Energy Conference, Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg, FL. Visit NCAF's web site for more information and registration.

February 10, 2010: National Fuel Fund Network’s (NFFN) LIHEAP Action Day, Washington D.C. Free registration is now open.

June 14-16, 2010: National Energy and Utility Affordability Conference, Hyatt Regency Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas.

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.