So, one my favorite events at AGA is the annual LIHEAP Action Day event. LIHEAP stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP is a federally funded energy assistance program designed to help low-income households cope with the financial burdens of heating and cooling their homes. Last year’s program helped about 8.9 millions households but there’s great concern that those numbers will fall if any cuts come to the program.
That’s a real possibility this year.
To make sure that policy makers are aware of the importance of LIHEAP, AGA works with the National Fuel Funds Network (NFFN) to put on LIHEAP Action Day. People fly-in from all across the country, taking time out of their busy schedules, to go to the Hill in mass to speak with policy makers about LIHEAP in their areas. Before these people go to the Hill, we have a short program giving them the latest statistics on LIHEAP.
George Coling, the Executive Director of the NFFN, opened the program and handed it off to our new president and CEO Dave McCurdy. Dave gave some great information and background on LIHEAP before turning it over to Nick Stavropoulos of National Grid.
Nick briefly reiterated the statistical side of the importance of LIHEAP. More people needing help. The poverty rate rising from 13 percent to 14 percent in the last year. That although LIHEAP helped 8.9 million households, or approximately 23 million people, the money available was only enough to help 1 in 5 eligible Americans.
The thing about LIHEAP though is, while the numbers are important, it’s the people that really matter. The personal stories. Nick shared his.
He spoke about being a little league coach in his youth. What a great experience it was. How much he got out of it and gave to it. He mentioned coaching Rumeal Robinson…I’m actually old enough to remember that Michigan team. He said Matt Damon was a great kid, a good shortstop and his mom was at every game. And then he mentioned James.
James was a kid they coached for a few years and left the team around 12. He was from an unstable, low-income family that was having trouble making ends meet. After he left the team, they would see him around the neighborhood and try to talk to him about the choices he was making to help his family make money to make those ends meet. The story ended sadly, as you might suspect, with James, a young kid of 15, dying in activities he shouldn’t have been involved trying to earn a buck to keep the heat on and food on the table.
Nick said those are the types of stories he thinks about when he goes to people to ask for help with these types of programs and he urged people talking to policy makers to remember their own James as they make the hard ask today to ensure that LIHEAP is fully funded at $5.1 billion.
There’s going to be alot of stuff going on around LIHEAP today. I’ll post a couple pictures from this morning but will do some more later on the media event, etc. For now, take a look at this LIHEAP fact sheet.