Floridians benefit from electricity rates that are below the national average, but during these hot months everyone sees their bills rise because air conditioners are working longer and harder to keep us cool. Low-income families feel the effects of this seasonal change more than anyone.
The U.S. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is supposed to offer critical home heating and cooling to vulnerable families. Unlike entitlement programs that adjust to growth in eligible populations, LIHEAP does not. Instead, it depends upon Congress’ annual budget for its funding. Today, LIHEAP helps 20 percent of eligible households. Because funds are limited, LIHEAP prioritizes at-risk seniors, the disabled and preschoolers. Nearly 2 million Florida households qualify, yet only 134,691 were helped in 2014.
Congress sends Florida just enough funding to reach 7 percent of its deserving residents. The remaining 93 percent of households that qualify must find another way to make ends.
In recent years, LIHEAP funding has been allowed to fall 33 percent from $5.1 billion to $3.39 billion. While the numbers of at-risk households are virtually unchanged nationally, they’re up in our state. Surely, America’s primary energy assistance program can do better than this in Florida.
Joe Gibbons, president & CEO, Energy Equity Alliance,