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Customer Advocates, Entergy Employees Launch Effort to Increase Federal Energy Assistance Program Funding


Join National Drive to Persuade Congress to Approve Additional Monies for LIHEAP

Entergy Corporation employees and advocates for low-income residents are heading to Washington D.C. next week as part of a national campaign to convince Congress the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program needs an immediate infusion of money to help the elderly, the disabled and low-income families with children offset this year’s higher energy costs.

On Jan. 30, more than 150 representatives of nonprofits, community action groups and utilities from across the country will be on Capitol Hill as part of the National Fuel Fund Network’s Washington Action Day for LIHEAP. Entergy employees are participating in the annual event as part of their commitment to help low-income customers. LIHEAP is the government’s primary tool to help low-income residents pay energy costs.

Adding funds to the LIHEAP program also helps stimulate the economy, experts say. Each dollar put into LIHEAP generates $5.37 of economic activity, according to a recent study on the economic impact of LIHEAP funding.

“Rising energy prices affect everyone, but low-income consumers are particularly vulnerable. That’s why we strongly support Congress taking action to increase funding for LIHEAP and make sure all states receive their fair share. Congress has several options that would accomplish those goals,” said Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate social responsibility for Entergy.
“Among them are an amendment to increase LIHEAP funding by $800 million and another amendment to add $3.66 billion of LIHEAP funding to an economic stimulus package. Congress also has the opportunity to look ahead and appropriate $3.4 billion for LIHEAP base grant funding for fiscal year 2009,” said Riddlebarger. “We’re thankful for the $2.6 billion Congress has already allocated to the program, but it’s simply not enough to do the job.

“As it’s funded now, LIHEAP only reaches 15.6 percent of eligible households across the nation. In Texas, the percentage of eligible families that were helped in 2007 was only 6 percent, and Louisiana saw less than 10 percent of its eligible population receive assistance. Demand for help is only going to continue to increase in line with the rise in energy prices and the anticipated economic downturn,” Riddlebarger said.

“Not only does Congress need to increase appropriations funding, it needs to make sure the funds it allocates are distributed so residents of warm-weather states also get their fair share of help. The amendment adding $800 million would help to correct some of the funding inequities. Of course, the proposed economic stimulus package holds the greatest promise for America’s eligible households with seniors, disabled family members, or very young children,” Riddlebarger said.

“As Americans get older and more and more people move to warm-weather states, home cooling becomes essential,” Riddlebarger said.

Attention often focuses on the needs of the Northeast, Midwest and other areas hit by winter weather, but studies show heat waves cause more deaths annually than all other weather-related phenomena.

Even with the recent release of additional funding, FY 2008 LIHEAP funding to date is down from FY 2007 levels for many southern states while the nation has seen a 12 percent increase, according to the National Community Action Foundation. If LIHEAP funding is not increased, Louisiana will receive only 82 percent of 2007 funding levels, and Arkansas will receive just 88 percent of its 2007 funding. Mississippi’s LIHEAP allotment will be 13 percent less than what it received in 2007, according to the foundation’s research, although Texas will see a slight increase. The funding disparity is even worse when FY 2008 funding is compared to FY 2006 levels. All of the above states are now operating on less than 60 percent of the federal LIHEAP funding they had in FY 2006. The table can be found at the following link: National Community Action Foundation.

However, under the $800 million amendment proposal pending in the U.S. Senate, Texas would see its $44.1 million allotment increase to $92 million; Louisiana’s $18 million would rise to $36 million; Mississippi’s share of $15 million would jump to $27 million; and Arkansas’ funding would increase from the current $12.9 million to $26.5 million.

The proposed amendment to the economic stimulus legislation would increase LIHEAP funding even more. Texas’ share would rise to $230 million, Louisiana to $85 million, Mississippi to $75 million and Arkansas to $47 million, according to estimates of the current proposal.

“Congress obviously should first address the urgent needs this year, but it also must look ahead to fiscal year 2009 and appropriate at least $3.4 billion for the base grant portion of LIHEAP,” Riddlebarger said.


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