Energy help for low-income families

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2006

The country’s higher energy prices are affecting everyone, but for low-income households, particularly those that include the elderly, the disabled, or children, paying the monthly utility bill can sometimes be a real challenge.

If your family is typical, you spend about five percent of your monthly income on utility bills.

Low-income families, however, can spend up to 15 – 20 percent – almost one-fifth of their income – on the monthly energy bill, according to Edison Electric Institute.

If you know a family that needs help with their energy bill, tell them to contact their electric or gas utility.

They have a number of ways they can help.

Utility programs typically can include:

* Extending the due dates for paying the bill.

* Averaging monthly payments throughout the year to avoid unusually high bills during the winter

or summer months.

* Arranging for special help for customers who may have a temporary cash flow problem.

* Offering help in weatherizing a home.

* Providing financial assistance through fuel funds.

* Some utilities are even offering energy gift certificates that you can purchase to give to family members or friends.

Utility assistance for low-income families also includes advocating for greater federal assistance for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Congress created LIHEAP to help low-income families pay their energy bills.

Today, however, funding levels for LIHEAP are not keeping pace with the demand or the higher prices for energy.

You can help by asking your members of Congress to support full funding of LIHEAP.

A new Web site,, has more information for you.

To learn more about electric utility energy assistance for low-income customers, visit