News Center > Consistent Funding Required for Program to Help Needy Pay Energy Costs, Community Advocates, (Cont.)
Consistent Funding Required for Program to Help Needy Pay Energy Costs, Community Advocates, (Cont.)
Consistent Funding Required for Program to Help Needy Pay Energy Costs, Community Advocates, Entergy Employees Tell Congress
WASHINGTON – A coalition of politicians, customer advocates and utility employees this week called for Congress to fully fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the next federal budget and expand the program so more money is available to help pay summer cooling bills.
More than 70 advocates, including 10 Entergy employees, and a LIHEAP recipient made their plea during a Capitol Hill press conference and in meetings with members of congressional delegations from the four states served by Entergy utilities. Speakers asked Congress to continue funding LIHEAP at $5.1 billion in the next budget.
The employees and advocates were taking part in the annual LIHEAP Washington Action Day event – organized by the National Fuel Funds Network, the Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association – to promote the program. LIHEAP is the primary government tool to help pay household energy bills of eligible low-income families, especially those with elderly, disabled or young children, facing one-time emergency situations or victims of catastrophes like south Louisiana residents affected by the Gulf oil spill.
It is the first LIHEAP Action Day held in the summer, a move meant to spotlight the needs of at-risk Americans in warm-weather states. Nationwide, only about 10 percent of Entergy News Release LIHEAP funds are devoted to summer cooling programs. Even with an appropriation of $5.1 billion for fiscal year 2010, estimates are LIHEAP will only reach about one out of every five eligible American households.
Speaking in support of strengthening the program were U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, both Texas Democrats.
During Wednesday's press conference, Conway, Ark., resident Jema Quintana told how LIHEAP helped her and her young daughter get their power restored after she lost one of the two part-time jobs she was working and a broken-down car left her in financial disarray and with no other place to turn for help.
"It got so bad that my daughter and I had to use the coffee pot at the local convenience store to cook noodles so we had something to eat," Quintana said. "We were at home in the dark and I just remember feeling 'Oh my God, what in the world am I going to do?' My daughter asked why the house was dark, and I told her the lights were broken. What do you say to your kid in a situation like that?
"The discomfort was more than physical," she said. "When you come home and the power is off, there is no white noise, there is no comfort. It's dead silence, and it's just not healthy. I got really depressed. You feel as if there is no hope. I couldn't see my way out."
Quintana received help when a friend told her about LIHEAP. She now works for the agency where she first sought help.
"I know what our clients are going through. I'm not just somebody telling them rules. I was a client. I know how frustrating it is being dropped off and not having all of the paper work you need to get help. I also know that the agency is doing its part. I can honestly tell people I do understand," she said.
Along with the call for fully funding LIHEAP, speakers asked the Obama administration to release the remaining $100 million in the program's contingency fund to help those suffering through record heat waves across the nation and to provide aid to Louisiana residents affected by the oil spill. The number of people seeking help grows each day, said Lorie Zylicz, who oversees the LIHEAP program for the St. Bernard Parish government. So far this year, LIHEAP has served 6,000 people in St. Bernard Parish, double the number for all of 2009, she said.
"We've all seen on TV the fishermen sitting idle, but the people you don't see are the owners and employees of small businesses throughout the parish and elsewhere who support the fishing industry. You don't see the owners of icehouses who used to supply the fishing boats. You don't see the employees of trucking companies who used to haul seafood all over the country," Zylicz said. "We are hurting and we need help."
Linda Barnes, manager of low-income initiatives for Entergy, said, "We need Congress to fully fund LIHEAP so people in financial crises can get some help.
"Extreme summer heat is the number one weather-related killer in the nation," Barnes said. "The typical low-income family can spend up to 40 percent of their monthly budget on energy costs. LIHEAP is targeted to help those most vulnerable to extreme temperatures -- the elderly, disabled and working families with young children."
Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and more than 15,000 employees.
Entergy's online address is entergy.com