Fear of Losing LIHEAP Persists
Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown
- Across the country, Native American tribes were publicly registering their fear over the prospect of losing the vital LIHEAP assistance that helped thousands of households across their nations, with Sioux member Eva Iyotte of South Dakota went public with her concern that ” If that program is cut, I don’t know who’s going to help us out,” before humanizing the issue with the brutal honesty that “we might be poor, but we’re like other people. We want to survive.”
- With more than 43,000 Native American households helped by LIHEAP in 2016, approximately 150 tribal governments took advantage of $33.3 million in program assistance in the past 12-months, particularly in upper Iowa, where Native American tribal nations were taking advantage of available LIHEAP assistance while the last of winter’s frost faded across the plains, as the Mid Sioux Opportunity – who services prominent tribes including the Cherokee, Ida, Lyon, Plymouth, and Sioux Counties – alerted nations that winter assistance would run out at the end of April.
- The Center for American Progress refocused the spotlight on the damaged even the threat of the White House’s proposed budget cuts could cause to 5.7 million LIHEAP-dependent families, including 673,000 upcoming households who might lose cooling assistance, cautioning that “President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, will be especially dangerous as more states experience extreme weather.”
- Congressman Peter Welch doubled down on this warning, predicting “immense practical and logistical challenges” for those families affected in his winter-weather state of Vermont, while Steve Geller, Executive Director of the Southeastern Vermont Community Action, told the congressman matter-of-factly at a town hall that “this is going to destroy our lives.”
- In neighboring Connecticut, Governor Malloy – a strong LIHEAP advocate – extended the program’s deadline into the end of April, noting that “Spring may be here, but applications for home heating assistance are still available through May 1 at more than 170 sites throughout the state.”
- New Jersey took care to make sure the aftermath of another frigid winter wasn’t still punishing LIHEAP-dependent families after moratoriums ended and past-due heating bills came due as Elizabethtown Gas announced that a $450 emergency benefit still available for families needing a helping hand.
- In Rhode Island, the spirit of compassion was the same, with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) setting a record by taking less than 60 seconds to approve a unanimous extension of the moratorium on gas/electric shut-offs. Camilo Viveiros, head of the George Wiley Center, immediately and gratefully praised the move as “an important decision that’s going to help all of the utility customers avoid having their electricity terminated in the next couple of weeks.”
- The Tennessean editorial board sounded off about how the White House budget cuts – specifically those threatening energy assistance – would affect “Nashville’s affordability is one of the keys to our success. As the cost of living increases, we will increasingly lose our competitive edge and much needed services like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).”
- In Illinois, proactive Community Action Agencies like Fox Valley Older Adult Services hosted Energy Assistance education and enlistment sessions with their elderly clients, noting that “through the generosity of civic organizations, businesses and private donors, FVOAS is able to help seniors continue to live vital and independent lives in their own homes” without worrying about having to make the classically-difficult choice between heating or eating.