LIHEAP Applications for Assistance up 5.3 Percent for FY 2005

Contact: Mark Wolfe
Phone: 202-237-5199 / 202-320-9046 (cell)
Date: December 10, 2004

State Energy Directors Report Applications for Assistance up 5.3%

States Call for the Administration to Release Emergency Funds to Avert a Public Health Crisis

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), representing the state directors of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), today released their winter heating survey. Based on preliminary applications, requests for energy assistance are expected to exceed five million households this winter, the highest number in the last 10 years.

According to Mark Wolfe, Executive Directors of NEADA, “these are preliminary numbers based on a comparison of applications received last year at this time and represents an increase of more than 250,000 families over last year at this time and an increase of about 850,000 families in the last three years.”

States with projected increases of at least 7% as compared to last year include: Alabama 8.3%, Arkansas 7%, District of Columbia 7.3%, Florida 44.7%, Kansas 19.8%, Maine 15.7%, Massachusetts 7%, Montana 14.7%, Nevada 50%, New Hampshire 17.8%, New Jersey 9.6%, New Mexico 10.6%, North Carolina 16.6%, Oklahoma 8.7%, Oregon 8%,Texas 25.6%, Utah 14%, Wisconsin 10%, West Virginia 8% and Wyoming 15.6%. A copy of the table is attached.

Mr. Wolfe stated that the increase in applications reflects the impact of rising energy prices and that the number of applications is likely to increase as the winter progresses and families have difficulties in paying their home energy bills. Many state directors are concerned that these numbers could be conservative and could grow even faster as the winter heating season progresses.

Mr. Wolfe added that the current appropriation is not sufficient to meet the need for assistance and called on the Administration to release program emergency funds. “The Congress just provided the Administration with the authority to release up to $298 million in emergency LIHEAP funds. For millions of low income families the rising price of home energy is an emergency and justifies the immediate release of the funds.”

The higher prices for natural gas, heating oil and propane have reduced the program’s purchasing power and exceed any increase for inflation provided by Social Security for the elderly and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the disabled poor. The cost of living adjustment will be 2.1 percent or about $25 for Social Security and $15 for SSI. The cost for home heating according to recent data released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will increase from $953 to $1179 for heating oil, $1147 to $1404 for propane and $870 to $950 for natural gas.

A national survey of LIHEAP recipients conducted last year by NEADA found that families that cannot pay their energy bills will cut back on food, medicine and other necessities in order to pay their home energy bills. A copy of the survey is on the NEADA website – www.neada.org.