NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Number of Poor Seeking Energy Assistance Jumps

August 8, 2001

The number of households seeking and receiving government funds to pay their fuel bills is soaring. Congress last year initially appropriated $1.4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. But it will actually spend $2.2 billion this year -- using leftover funds and emergency appropriations originally intended for winter heating.

Authorities say last winter's unusually cold temperatures coupled with this summer's sizzling heat have left many poor people with record utility bills they are unable to pay.

The energy-bill squeeze is especially acute in the South -- because federal energy grants favor the colder North.

  • Some 5 million people requested energy aid last winter, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association -- a 30 percent increase.
  • Nearly 276,000 Georgia households received government energy assistance in the 2001 fiscal year ended June 30 -- which compares to about 120,000 in the prior fiscal year.
  • The number of Georgia households with children ages 5 or less receiving energy aid skyrocketed from 12,500 last year to 119,000 this year.

Since the program reaches only 18 percent of those eligible for assistance, consumer groups and utilities are lobbying for even more funds.

Source: John J. Fialka and Andrew Caffrey, "More of the Poor Seek Aid to Pay their Utility Bills," Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2001.

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