October 11, 2013 — As the shutdown of the federal government continues, LIHEAP grantees find themselves trying to predict how it will impact, if it hasn't already, their heating assistance programs. According to newspaper reports from around the country, most grantees interviewed said their programs could survive at least a couple weeks, and most said they are accepting applications, despite the uncertainty over LIHEAP funding.
Some states, like Connecticut, had funds leftover from the previous year's programs. Connecticut officials told the media its $7.45 million carryover should be enough to pay for the first round of fuel deliveries, which are scheduled for November 15. After that, the Department of Social Services, the LIHEAP grantee, said the carryover money would be exhausted.
In Vermont, the Agency of Human Services, the LIHEAP grantee, said the first energy-assistance payments weren't scheduled to go out until mid-November. According to the agency, Vermont's LIHEAP could endure a federal shutdown for about a month. Any longer, the agency said, would have a "huge impact" on the people it serves.
In Kentucky, the start of the heating program was initially set for November 4. However, due to the shutdown, the program was pushed back to November 12. If the shutdown continues, the start date may be pushed back even more. Community Resource Representative Jennifer VanHoose told the press, "They [LIHEAP applicants] are very disappointed, because they anticipate the start date and they actually plan the paying of their bills, whether it is a utility bill or if they are waiting to receive kerosene."
Both Michigan and Nevada announced that their LIHEAPs would be shut down until the federal government began operating again. The shutdown also had immediate impacts for some of the local agencies administering LIHEAP.
A lack of funds caused the Minnesota Valley Action Council to delay its LIHEAP opening. With LIHEAP funding in flux, the Minnesota Housing Services encouraged applicants to talk directly to their utilities about the Cold Weather Rule, which prevents companies from shutting off heat between October 15 and April 15.
The shutdown and lack of funding caused one local agency in Massachusetts to stop administering LIHEAP and lay off six workers. Other local agencies were facing similar decisions. Action for Boston Community Development Inc. said the lack of funding impacted the agency's ability to negotiate with utilities to keep the heat on for clients. "We can't do that, because we have nothing to negotiate with," said the agency's president.
Sources: Media reports