Washington, D.C. – Federal assistance is keeping the heat on in homes through the country. Results from a survey released today by the American Gas Association (AGA) show that the number of customers who have had their heat shut off due to their inability to pay the bill fell almost nine percent compared to a year ago. However, the number of customers who are in arrears on their heating bills increased 4.5 percent. In these difficult economic times, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is making up the difference.
“Despite improvement in the number of shutoffs, more customers are having trouble paying their utility bills,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “As temperatures drop in many parts of the country, LIHEAP is critical in helping vulnerable families stay warm.”
Military families have been hit particularly hard. The number of families with at least one member who has served in the military receiving LIHEAP increased 156% since 2008. A study by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found the number of LIHEAP recipient households with a veteran stands at 1.78 million.
LIHEAP assists low income households in meeting their immediate home energy needs. Funding is distributed to each of the fifty states, U.S. territories and tribal governments through the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Administration of the program is left up to state, territorial or tribal governments.
Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government through December 16, 2011 and funds LIHEAP at the president’s proposal of $1.98 billion in formula funding, despite the fact that the U.S. Senate and House Committees have proposed $3.4 billion in formula funding. Most of the $1.98 billion in funds have already been distributed to the states. AGA continues to advocate for level funding of LIHEAP in the next CR and/or the next spending bill.
American Gas Association survey: Utility Customer Arrearage and Disconnect Survey
National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association study: LIHEAP Recipients by Veteran Status