November 20, 2015—Alliant Energy, a public utility holding company which operates in Iowa and Wisconsin, has recently announced that it will be donating $2 Million to its Hometown Care Energy Fund. Donations for the fund are gathered from Alliant's current and former employees, customers, and company shareholders.
Last year Alliant employees and customers donated $250,000 to the fund in addition to the $2 million donated by company shareholders. Funds gathered for the Hometown Care Energy Fund are administered by local community action agencies in the state of Iowa, and by Energy Services Inc.'s Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund in Wisconsin. In 2015, donations helped serve around 7,000 homes across Iowa and Wisconsin.
In order to receive aid from this fund, a low-income client must either:
- Meet income guidelines for LIHEAP in their state,
- Be over 60 years old and on a fixed income with no alternative source of income,
- Be permanently/temporarily disabled or otherwise unable to become economically self-sufficient, or
- Have other special hardships that are not limited to income, age, or eligibility.
The low-income applicant must also be responsible for paying his or her utility bill.
Even with this help, however, many Iowans struggle to keep their homes heated. According to Jerry McKim, the state LIHEAP director who works with community action agencies across the state of Iowa, the state is barely holding its own. He believes that the state's LIHEAP benefit, usually a one-time payment of around $450 to $500, falls short in addressing the energy insecurity of households in his state.
He reports that in September Iowa utilities sent out around 91,000 disconnection notices. Iowa's moratorium went into effect on November 1 and runs until April 1. However, he notes, that ban on disconnection only applies to those households who are signed up for weatherization or for LIHEAP. For those who are not signed up for one of these programs, the ban only keeps energy vendors from disconnecting their customer if the temperatures drop below 20°F within 24 hours of the scheduled disconnection.
On each of those disconnect notices is a phone number for those seeking assistance with LIHEAP. McKim states that he doesn't receive 91,000 calls, but he does receive about a half a dozen phone calls a day from those who are threatened with a disconnection notice. According to the state's moratorium, customers who notify their utility that they are applying for LIHEAP certification through their local action agency may receive a 30-day stay from service disconnection during the moratorium. After the moratorium ends, utilities must offer payment plans to customers who received LIHEAP or weatherization assistance during the winter season.
Sources: LIHEAP Clearinghouse, Alliant Energy, Media Sources