September 12, 2017—As record-breaking heatwaves beat down on many parts of the U.S. this summer, many LIHEAP offices across the nation are winding down the application period for cooling assistance for income eligible households. According to fiscal year 2017 state model plans, twenty-one states planned to offer some type of cooling assistance. Eight of the 21 states planned to offer cooling as a part of a year-round program. A few states planned to provide cooling assistance through summer crisis if there was a weather-related emergency or if there were funds available after the heating season. For more information about what states generally provided cooling assistance and how, check out the LIHEAP Clearinghouse.
Seventy-eight tribes and tribal organizations also planned to offer cooling assistance for income eligible households, according to FY 2017 model plans. Of those, 20 generally planned to offer cooling assistance through year-round programs. For more information about tribal cooling programs, check out the LIHEAP Clearinghouse here.
The majority of the planned cooling programs either assigns priority to, or assist only, vulnerable households during the summer. Vulnerable households are often identified as those with elderly members over the age of 60, households with a disabled member, or households with children under the age of six. Income eligible households with members who have medical issues that put them at risk in the heat also often receive assistance priority.
Utility companies and fuel funds have also pitched in to cover the needs of their low-income constituents during the hot summer months. For example, Entergy Texas provided 1,300 box fans to almost 30 charitable and non-profit agencies in their service territory which were handed out to clients in need. Last cooling season, Entergy provided 19,300 box fans .
Operation Fuel, a non-profit public fuel fund in Connecticut, offered one-time grants of up to $500 per year to households with vulnerable members. The program helped low-income families, elderly, and the disabled who were not eligible for government-funded programs. Last summer, Operation Fuel reported $3.2 million in energy assistance that was provided to 7, 705 households; of which $2.1 million was provided during the winter, and $1.1 million provided during the summer months.
A similar program through Ameran Illinois focused their cooling assistance on customers who need assistance, but who may not qualify for other forms of energy assistance. For customers to qualify for the Warm Neighbors Cool Friends (WNCF) program, they must first make a payment on their utility account, that payment is then matched by the WNCF. The program was funded by employee and customer contributions to the non-profit Energy Assistance Foundation. The program was administered through local social service agencies and focused on low- to moderate-income households who may be in the midst of financial hardship and are, thus, unable to keep up with their energy bills.
LIHEAP’s block grant structure allows grantees the discretion to make adjustments to their programs through the end of summer in order to mitigate the risks of weather related events such as dangerous heat waves. Grantees may adjust policies and, if the changes are significant, submit a revised 2017 Model Plan soon thereafter. As illustrated above, plan adjustments can include providing additional benefits to winter benefit recipients, increasing benefits to offset the higher cost of air conditioning during heat waves, establishing cooling centers, loaning or giving out air conditioning units and/or fans, and so on. For more information, see the Office of Community Service’s Dear Colleague Letter regarding last summer’s extreme heat event.
Has your state offered cooling programs? If so, let us know how cooling programs and partnerships work in your area.
Entergy Corporation and Subsidiaries. (2016). 2016 Annual Report. Retrieved from www.entergy.com/annual_report/
Operation Fuel. (2016). 2016 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.operationfuel.org/our-publications/.