AGA Report Outlines Energy Assistance Needs
A new study by the American Gas Association (AGA) shows an increasing gap between the plight that lower-income households face in paying their energy bills and the assistance available to them from the federal governments LIHEAP and other non-federal sources.
According to AGAs report, The Growing Need to Help Low-Income Energy Consumers: Government, Charitable and Utility Programs, low-income households use considerably less energy per household today than in 1981. However, the energy they use is higher priced and there are far more households with incomes near the poverty level than in 1981, when LIHEAP was created.
The report chronicles trends between 1981 and 2002, as the need for assistance far exceeded what was currently available. According to the study:
- There were 66 percent more households eligible for federal energy aid in 2002 than in 1981.
- Between 1981 and 2005, there was an 81 percent increase in the consumer price index and energy prices increased considerably some energy bills have tripled and yet funding for LIHEAP increased by only four percent.
- Only 13 percent of the 33 million households that were eligible for LIHEAP received assistance in 2002.
- Over the same period that funding remained stable and energy prices were increasing, low-income households instituted energy efficiency and weatherization measures that reduced their home heating use by 31 percent and their total energy use by 22 percent.
- While federal funding has remained static, non-federal assistance has increased. Between 2001 and 2004, utility rate assistance funds grew by 50 percent; utility energy efficiency funds grew by 35 percent, and fuel fund programs grew by 16 percent.
Of the total $4 billion raised for low-income energy assistance in 2002:
- Federal LIHEAP funding represented $1.9 billion;
- Utility assistance in the form of discounted rates amounted to $1.4 billion;
- Utility energy efficiency programs contributed $287 million;
- State and local assistance programs provided $197 million;
- Fuel funds and other charities donated $108 million; and
- Other groups accounted for the remaining $34 million.
According to AGA: Utility programs provided more than $1 billion to help needy families manage their energy bills in 2002. Thats a significant amount of support, yet the need continues to be far greater than utility programs are able to fulfill, despite our best combined efforts.
AGAs source for non-federal assistance is the LIHEAP Clearinghouses annual compilation State-by-State Supplements to Energy Assistance and Energy Efficiency, the most recent of which is available at http://www.liheap.ncat.org/Supplements/2004/supplement04.htm