Contact: Mark Wolfe
Phone: 202-237-5199 / 202-320-9046 (cell)
Date: April 26, 2004

Low-Income Energy Crises Worsens – National Survey Reports that Unaffordable Energy Bills have Serious, Long-Term Impacts on Families

The first national study of the effect of energy costs for poor families shows an alarming impact on basic needs, the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) announced today. Among the findings in the NEADA study: over 25% of families in the survey sacrificed medical care, failed to make a rent or mortgage payment and 22% went without food for at least a day.

“This report shows that families who can’t pay their home energy bills not only can’t keep the family warm – they have agonizing problems keeping them fed or healthy,” said Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of NEADA, in releasing the study. NEADA represents the state directors of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the program that provided heating assistance to almost 5 million families in FY 2004.

“The survey shows clearly that LIHEAP works,” Wolfe said, pointing to figures that showed the number of recipients spending over 25% of their income on energy declined by 2/3 with LIHEAP help. “It’s a great program. The problem is we only had enough money to help 13% of those eligible.”

Among the findings of the study:

Impact on Health: 22% of LIHEAP recipients went without food for at least one day, 38% went without medical or dental care, 30% went without filling a prescription or taking the full dose of a prescribed medicine, 21% became sick because their home was too cold, 7% became sick because their home was too hot, and 5% reported that an illness resulted in a doctor or hospital visit. Of growing concern, 20% of recipients said that they were not able to pay their energy bills due to medical expenses.

Impact on Shelter: 28% of LIHEAP recipients did not make a rent or mortgage payment, 9% reported that they moved in with family or friends, 4% were evicted, and 4% were homeless.

Some LIHEAP recipients faced life-threatening challenges: 17% of LIHEAP recipients were unable to use their main source of heat due to discontinued utility service or an inability to pay for fuel, and 8% had their electricity shut off due to nonpayment.

Even with LIHEAP families have to take drastic actions to pay their energy bill: