New Study Reveals 6 Million Low-Income Households Need More Help to Pay Utility Bills

Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety: homes that are too cold in winter or hot in summer put children at risk for respiratory diseases like asthma and burn injuries or carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of candles for light or stoves for heat, and can land seniors in the hospital with heat exhaustion and the worsening of diabetes and other chronic ailments. Financial stresses on households facing high home energy bills mean that some will go without food or a full dose of medically necessary prescription medicines.

The LIHEAP benefit can save lives, especially in summertime, and protects against the health threats posed by high home energy bills. NEADA’s 2018 national telephone sample surveys of LIHEAP households documented a wide range of adverse outcomes tied to energy insecurity, as well as the benefit of LIHEAP for low- and moderate-income households.

2018 National Energy Assistance Survey, Final Report

In 2018 nearly six million low-income households received grants from the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which pays part of the utility bill for struggling households with children, disabled members, or impoverished senior citizens. To learn the effect of LIHEAP on these households, NEADA commissioned an independent study of recent LIHEAP grantees in seven states that together represent a national sample.

Completed in December 2018, the survey documents that prior to receiving a LIHEAP grant nearly a third of recipients had their heat shut off, could not pay for fuel delivery, or  could not afford to fix a broken heating system. As a result they had no main source of heat in the year preceding the grant.

Almost half of these households had a member over 60; half had a disabled resident, and over a third had children under 18. To cope, about a third of these households closed off part of their home and used the kitchen stove for heat; 7 percent left their homes altogether for relatives’ or friends’ couches; some 6 percent wound up in public shelters. As many as half the households went without food for at least a day or declined necessary medical or dental care to keep the heat on.

A full account is presented in this Final Report along with the questions asked of recipients.

Press Release
Executive Summary
Full Report

The following provides links to surveys conducted in the last several years:

Other Studies on Energy Burden and Public Health