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Entergy Advocates for Low-Income Customers in Nation's Capital


Ben Portis, Entergy's director of federal governmental affairs, provides simulation instructions to Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). Photo by Elias Kontogiannis for Catholic Charities USA.
Ben Portis, Entergy's director of federal governmental affairs, provides simulation instructions to Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). Photo by Elias Kontogiannis for Catholic Charities USA.

Entergy recently sponsored and participated in two events in Washington, D.C., that focused attention on the plight of America’s working poor. Entergy and partnering organizations sought not only to raise awareness about poverty and its causes but also to encourage businesses and communities to take action. 

On May 17, Entergy helped the United Way introduce ALICE to the national media during a press conference at the National Press Club; and on May 23, Entergy teamed with Catholic Charities USA to conduct a poverty simulation on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and their staffs. 

Poverty simulation participants on Capitol Hill discuss their roles in uncovering the difficulties of everyday life for impoverished Americans. Photo by Elias Kontogiannis for Catholic Charities USA.

The United Way ALICE Project is a nationwide effort to quantify and describe the number of households that are struggling financially. ALICE is an acronym for “asset limited, income constrained, employed.” 

During the ALICE forum, Patty Riddlebarger, Entergy’s director of corporate social responsibility, participated in a forum addressing financial hardship in America. She explained the origins of Entergy’s low-income initiatives and described ways that businesses can help attack the root causes of poverty. 

“For Entergy, helping ALICE families in our communities succeed is a business imperative, as our success is directly tied to the prosperity of our communities,” Riddlebarger said. “When ALICE suffers, we all suffer, from mom-and-pop businesses to Fortune 500 corporations.” 

The following week Entergy helped present the community action poverty simulation on Capitol Hill. During the one-hour exercise, members of Congress and staffers assumed the roles of different family members living in poverty for a month. They were tasked with providing basic necessities and shelter for their families over the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” 

“Too often, low-income families and working Americans bear the brunt of our government’s inaction or the unintended consequences of our policies,” said Representative Joe Kennedy, III (D-MA), who co-sponsored the event with Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL). “With this poverty simulation hosted by Catholic Charities, Congress was given a welcome opportunity to better understand the daily struggles facing too many of our constituents.”

“I felt awful when I could not provide for my family.” - poverty simulation participant 

Entergy has hosted more than 50 simulations, helping key stakeholders throughout the Entergy utility service area better understand the plight of America’s working poor. Entergy and Catholic Charities have two more simulations planned for the coming weeks. 

“The poverty simulation on Capitol Hill was an eye-opening experience for all those who participated, and I applaud all the organizers and sponsors for making the event a success. It demonstrated both the highs and the lows facing Americans in poverty today. Through the exercise, we should all be emboldened to redouble our efforts to lift Americans out of poverty and improve the quality of life for all those in our country,” said Byrne. 

Riddlebarger agreed. The simulations are “a powerful way to help legislators understand the desperation many hard-working families face, which, in turn, can lead to lawmakers’ support of legislation with potential to change the quality of life for ALICE,” she said.

“I was forced to make short-term decisions I knew were not good in the long run.” - poverty simulation participant 

To help alleviate poverty, Riddlebarger recommends that companies and communities can take action through these four practical strategies: 

  • Recognize that ALICE is in the workforce. “Even with competitive wages and benefits, from time to time employees may still find themselves in positions where they need help,” said Riddlebarger. “There have been numerous instances where through our partnership with United Way and local nonprofits, we have been able to help our own employees who were struggling.” 
  • Support workforce development. “Entergy has created a five-year, $5-million initiative to provide workforce training to help place unemployed and underemployed adults in high demand, high wage jobs,” said Riddlebarger. 
  • Partner with proven organizations and causes. Entergy’s partners with the IRS during Super Tax Day events, where volunteers help ALICE claim Earned Income Tax Credits — the nation’s most effective federal poverty alleviation program. “Since 2009, we’ve helped more than 100,000 low-income customers file for and receive $169 million in EITC refunds,” she said. 
  • Support sound public policy at local, state and federal levels. “This can take the form of advocacy as well as education,” said Riddlebarger. “The poverty simulations are a good example of a meaningful means of educating key stakeholders on important issues for our customers, communities and our company.”