A report by the Center for American Progress says America should set a national goal of making home energy affordable to all low-income households and that one way to achieve the goal is to “retool” existing assistance programs—LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
Titled “Generating Heat Around the Goal of Making Home Energy Affordable to Low Income Americans: Current Challenges and Proposed Solutions,” the report was released December 17.
It reviewed the LIHEAP and WAP programs through data compiled by program administrators and outside researchers, and concluded that both programs need more funding, but also said there are areas where each could be more effective. Recommendations for LIHEAP program improvements are:
- Expand LIHEAP services to currently ineligible populations during times of emergency. The reported noted that households with incomes between 151 and 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines often face dire consequences as a result of unaffordable energy bills; thus, these households would benefit if LIHEAP assistance was extended to them during times of “emergency,” a term that could include record-high energy prices or extreme weather conditions.
- Explore ways to innovate the administration of LIHEAP. The program should explore the possibility of simplifying its administration and outreach by pairing it with other government low-income programs. As a result, low-income persons could receive appropriate benefits through one unified mechanism. The process could also result in more extensive LIHEAP outreach to those seeking other government assistance.
- Build LIHEAP program capacity so energy burden can be measured at the local level. The report said appropriate federal and state investments should be made to help local agencies develop mechanisms to measure the energy burdens of LIHEAP applicants. This would help the agencies measure, and be consistently mindful, of their progress toward reaching the recommended national goal of reducing the home energy burdens of all low-income households to the level of the national median. Furthermore, such measurements could provide information that could lead to more successful targeting to the most heavily burdened households, or those that are underserved.