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Carsey Institute Study Shows LIHEAP Use on the Rise

May 16, 2011--More American families are turning to LIHEAP to heat their homes during the winter, with many more families eligible for but not taking advantage of the program, according to new research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

The research relies on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey’s (CPS ) Annual Social and Economic Supplement conducted in March 2004, March 2007, and March 2010. The CPS provides a nationally representative sample of approximately 50,000 households and the individuals in those households, and collects demographic, economic, and employment information, as well as participation in select government assistance programs. The report  also includes LIHEAP grantee survey information from the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

The report’s key findings are:

  • Between the 2007 and 2010 surveys, 48 percent more households reported receiving winter energy assistance.
  • Many more families are eligible than receive assistance. In winter 2009/2010, only 16 percent of income-eligible households received support.
  • Significantly more households in the severe winter regions of the Northeast and Midwest receive assistance than in the warmer regions of the South and West.
  • Households headed by a single parent rely heavily on energy assistance, particularly in rural areas where rates of receipt are greater than 20 percent.
  • Poor households are more likely to receive energy assistance than other low-income households, suggesting that the neediest households are being reached.

The highest rates of energy assistance are in rural areas, particularly in the rural Northeast and Midwest. In the 2009/2010 winter, New Englanders received the highest average benefit, at $747.

“This assistance likely covers only a fraction of total home heating costs. About seven in 10 New England homes use heating oil, the most expensive home heating option, and may pay up to $3,000 in heating costs each winter. Thus, a New England family with an average energy assistance benefit could still face more than $2,200 in heating costs, or be left unable to adequately heat their home,” said Jessica Bean, author of the study.

The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire conducts research and analysis on the challenges facing families and communities in New Hampshire, New England, and the nation.

Source: Carsey Institute