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Outreach: Energy Assistance Expo Held in Baltimore

January 15, 2016—Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) teamed up once again with Maryland's Office of Home Energy Assistance Program (the state's LIHEAP grantee), the city of Baltimore, and the Fuel Fund of Maryland to hold another Energy Assistance Expo in West Baltimore at the Southern Baptist Church this past week. Other sponsors for this event included state Senator Nathaniel McFadden and other legislators from the area.

These partners have teamed up to hold similar events in the past. Each expo is designed to inform low-income residents and customers about programs that may be able to assist them with their fuel bills. Interested customers are encouraged to come to the event with all the necessary documentation, so they may be assisted with the grant application process. Through one-on-one customer interaction, BGE decides which plan it offers is best for each individual. Such plans may include the Budget Billing Plan, which structures bills so customers may pay a fixed rate rather than dealing with spikes in costs when the weather gets too cold or too hot. The goal of these arrangements is to whittle down the customer's bill as much as is possible to manageable levels.

Customers may also apply for additional matching assistance from the Fuel Fund of Maryland as well as assistance from the state's LIHEAP, known as the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). Customers may also apply for the Electric Universal Service Program which provides recipients with electric bill assistance, retirement of certain past-due bills, and weatherization services.

Maryland is not the only state that sees such expos. Last March Rhode Island's National Grid hosted a community expo where they assisted customers with finding a suitable payment or budget program. In addition, National Grid donated $25,000 each to the Salvation Army's Good Neighbor Energy Fund and the Rhode Island Food Bank. During last summer in Nevada, over 100 NV Energy employees volunteered to spend a Saturday in August assisting senior customers at the annual Senior Energy Assistance Expo. Many additional expos pop up throughout the year in communities across the country.

As in Maryland, sometimes LIHEAP grantees participate in these expos and report it as part of their outreach activities in their state plans. Outreach is an important aspect of administering LIHEAP, both at the state and local level. Effective outreach means the most in-need households, or those the state has prioritized such as elderly or disabled, are made aware of the program, as well as of other energy-related programs for which they may be eligible. Effective outreach can also streamline the application process.

Sources: Press Releases, Baltimore Sun, LIHEAP Clearinghouse