03/13/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/13/2018 08:01
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, in partnership with other NiSource utilities, is meeting today in Washington, D.C., with members of Congress to advocate for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Today is LIHEAP Action Day, and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania representatives have teamed up with peers from utility companies and community action agencies around the country to meet with elected representatives and staffers to educate them on how LIHEAP helps many of their constituents.
Federal LIHEAP grants fund state-administered energy assistance programs for low-income customers who need financial assistance to keep the heat on in winter. LIHEAP is funded through Congress' annual appropriations process, and offers assistance to households with a maximum annual income at 150% of federal poverty guidelines, or 60% of a state's median income. However the median income of actual LIHEAP recipients is only about half of that income level.
During the 2016-17 winter heating season, 170,867 customers in NiSource's seven-state service territory received more than $47 million in LIHEAP assistance, including 23,113 customers in Pennsylvania.
'It is critically important that Congress continue to adequately fund the LIHEAP program, which serves our most vulnerable customers during the times of year when they need utility services the most,' said Mike Huwar, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania president. 'At Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, we have a long history of participating in LIHEAP Action Day and being champions for our customers.'
Approximately six million households are helped by LIHEAP in each heating season, but more than 35 million households are eligible for assistance, according to the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition. Despite this need, LIHEAP funding has been reduced by 34% since 2010. The president's fiscal year 2019 budget has proposed eliminating LIHEAP funding entirely.
LIHEAP recipients are a diverse group, and include elderly retirees on fixed incomes, military veterans, single parents, the disabled and others struggling financially.
In addition to providing financial assistance for fuel and utility bills, LIHEAP provides low-cost home weatherization and energy-related home repairs.
In Pennsylvania, LIHEAP assistance is still available for the 2017-18 winter heating season. Customers can apply through the PA Department of Human Services at http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/heatingassistanceliheap/. Customers having trouble paying their bills should contact Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania at 1-800-537-7431.