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LIHEAP: A program to help with heating costs

Global warming is happening. Ice caps are melting, and global temperatures are rising. There are a few politicians who are not ready to acknowledge the scientific proof of the rise of average temperatures. However, those who recently survived the hottest summer on record in 2019 know that their energy bills were blistering. No one should ever have to choose between paying for food, medicine or energy bills. Continuous utility service is a matter of life and death for those with asthma, COPD, and other chronic illnesses. Climate change will only escalate, leaving the elderly, disabled and very young even more vulnerable than they already are.

Financial fallout
Families in a continuous or temporary setback are facing the brunt of global warming and the ensuing financial fallout. Those who experience the tundra of winter and the Sahara of summer know that energy costs are non-negotiable. With the increase of global warming, quite a few low-income families are spending up to half of their fixed income on heating and cooling needs. Almost 90 percent of households have AC, but many cannot use it. The worst part is many are already on their final notice with the utility company when the winter or summer hits its peak. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is here for you during the icy depths of winter. More than 554 households participate in this necessary program and 92 percent of LIHEAP recipients are vulnerable – our elders, the disabled, and children. Low-income households can apply for these state grants that are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Be safe and healthy
LIHEAP provides the help families need to be safe and healthy regardless of their income when it comes to winter heating bills in the form of one-time payments to utility companies. The program also provides weatherization to low-income households. The deepest concern is that extreme heat is deadlier than any other weather-related hazard and extreme cold kills more people every year than hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. Concern for the well-being of others runs deep throughout many communities, especially during the lonely periods of winter. The elders of the Cherokee Nation are LIHEAP champions. Many reservations are rural, making it nearly impossible to check up on other tribe members to make sure they are comfortable and safe during the depths of winter. LIHEAP supports and enhances the quality of life for all. After all, no one should spend the winter alone, scared and shivering.

Explore weatherization
Around 100 million homes could benefit from weatherization, the process of reducing the amount of energy a home uses to keep its inhabitants comfortable year-round. Many homes were not properly insulated to begin with. LIHEAP grant recipients are required to participate in weatherization. Professionals will come to these homes to add insulation, stop drafts, and weather strip windows and doors. Weatherization is not the same as remodeling. It involves specifically targeting areas of the home to reduce energy waste. Weatherization reduces energy consumption by up to 35 percent and saves around $218 to $350 per household every year. The process also has non-energy benefits as well, including improving local air quality, reducing fire risk and increasing the affordability of housing. The government outsources these weatherization tasks to local agencies, yielding more than 8,000 direct jobs. These contractors provide services in all 50 states and tribal lands.

Apply early
Programs vary by state, but most operate on a first come, first served basis. Have your Social Security number, state identification and last utility bill ready. You may have to make an appointment through the website or hotline. It does not matter what heat source you use. It could be gas, coal or wood. You could get a grant of up to $675 if you qualify, but keep in mind that funding is limited. Winter storms and blizzards do not mean more funds will necessarily be available. Fall enrollment starts in the summer for LIHEAP’s winter heating season. Households with senior citizens and disabled residents can apply from September through October. If you have had your power disconnected due to lack of payment, apply on October 1. Households that meet the eligibility guidelines can apply on November 1.

Tips
1. Designate one room that will be the focus of heating and cooling. Set up fans or space heaters to make sure everyone is comfortable.
2. Adjust your ceiling fans. In the summer, set your fan to rotate counterclockwise for a breeze effect. In the winter, set the fan to clockwise to keep the warm air close.
3. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat properly. Your body needs to focus on staying warm – being hungry and thirsty will leave you vulnerable.
4. If you have some warning that the power will go out, set the temperature higher in your house. The warmer it is to start, the longer it will take to cool.
5. Do not leave windows and doors open longer than is necessary. A blast of cold air can drop temperatures by as much as 10 degrees. Watch kids and pets to make sure they are securely indoors when the winds are at their worst.
6. Plan an activity to get your family’s mind off the weather. This could be a card game, a competition for who can tell the funniest or scariest story, or even baking to keep the house toasty.

Get help
Visit this link to find your state representative.

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