Public Utilities

  • Same lake, unequal rates, By Ted Gregory, Cecilia Reyes, Patrick M. O’Connell and Angela Caputo, October 25, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed…”
  • No Social Security Number? No lights, By Teresa Wiltz, October 17, 2017, Stateline: “In the city of LaGrange, Georgia, an immigrant from Mexico lives with his young family. He’s been living there for 10 years. He’s a homeowner. He doesn’t have a green card, so he doesn’t have a Social Security number. Without the Social Security number, the homeowner can’t get utility services in his name, even though he has a Mexican passport and an individual taxpayer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. (To protect him, his lawyer does not want to disclose his immigration status.) The city, which is the sole provider of utilities, requires that anyone opening an account have two things: a Social Security number and a government-issued photo ID…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – Pennsylvania

Pa. restores LIHEAP funding and extends availability, By Claudia Vargas, August 30, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services will restore planned cuts to home-heating assistance for the poor this winter, a relief for thousands of people across the state who rely on the service…”

Income-Based Water Bills – Philadelphia, PA

For low-income residents, Philadelphia unveiling income-based water bills, By Tricia L. Nadolny, June 19, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “The Philadelphia Water Department next month will launch a low-income assistance program that offers payments starting at $12 per month and is open even to those who haven’t fallen behind on their bills. For those who have, that debt would be frozen indefinitely…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Proposed elimination of LIHEAP funding elicits concern, By David Blanchette, June 7, 2017, State Journal-Register: “President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018 would eliminate federal funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a 40-year-old grant program that helps low-income households pay their utility bills and avoid shutoffs during winter cold or summer heat. If approved by Congress, the move could affect 6.7 million American families, including more than 330,000 in Illinois…”

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Federal home heating assistance program is safe, for now, Associated Press, May 8, 2017, CBS News: “The federal program that helps low-income people heat their homes in the winter and, in some areas, cool them in the summer has been saved from elimination in the just-passed federal budget. While that’s good news for people who used the program in the just-finished heating season, next year’s funding will have to be negotiated by Congress as part of next year’s federal spending…”

LIHEAP and Native Americans

Native American tribes fear end of federal heating help, Associated Press, April 15, 2017, Billings Gazette: “Eva Iyotte was waiting on propane ordered under a federal energy assistance program President Donald Trump has targeted for elimination when she lost power at her home on frozen tribal land in South Dakota.  As the January conditions sent temperatures plummeting inside the house, the 63-year-old, her daughter and two grandsons took blankets to their car, where they waited with the heater running until the electricity was restored…”

Fuel Poverty – England

More than 2.3m families living in fuel poverty in England, By Jessica Elgot, December 30, 2016, The Guardian: “More than 2.3 million families are living in fuel poverty in England – the equivalent of 10% of households, according to government statistics. Almost 60,000 households in Birmingham alone cannot afford to heat their homes. The figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show the West Midlands city is worst affected, with Leeds, Cornwall, Manchester and Liverpool also in the top five local authorities where households face ‘eat or heat’ choices in winter…”

Fuel Poverty in the UK

Fuel poverty: How can UK tackle cold homes and high bills?, By Dave Harvey, November 17, 2016, BBC News: “When the temperature drops and the chill sets in, people in the UK are more likely to feel it in their homes than their continental neighbours. In European surveys comparing 16 countries with similar climates, the UK was near the bottom.  Why? Because it has the draughtiest windows and least insulated homes. For many families that means the moment they turn off the heating, the warmth goes out of the windows…”

Cost of Living for the Urban Poor

To cut down poverty, cut down the cost of living, By Laura Bliss, August 4, 2016, City Lab: “Proportionally speaking, Americans living in poverty pay more for basic necessities. On energy bills, the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend more than seven times the share of their income than do the wealthiest. Dividing American incomes into three, households in the bottom third spend twice the portion of their incomes on transportation than the top third. High housing costs are hurting everyone—but they’re hurting poor Americans the most…”

Home Energy Costs

Where the poor spend more than 10 percent of their income on energy, By Adam Chandler, June 8, 2016, The Atlantic: “From childcare to payday loans, to the difficulty of buying in bulk and beyond, the list of what makes being poor so expensive is long already. And here’s another: energy-related expenses. The threshold beyond which experts believe energy ceases to be ‘affordable’ is 6 percent of a household’s income. But for many lower-income households, even with declining energy prices, paying less than that benchmark is a fantasy. DeAndrea Newman Salvador, an economist and the founder of The Renewable Energy Transition Initiative, a nonprofit, studied the cost of home utilities in her native North Carolina and found that energy expenditures among low-earning households were staggeringly high…”

Home Energy Assistance Programs

Utility assistance falls short for those in poverty, By Dan Boyce and Jordan Wirfs-Brock, May 15, 2016, Glenwood Springs Post Independent: “Families at low income levels pay more than they can afford for their home utility bills, and energy assistance programs designed to help make up the difference struggle to meet demand. As Lea Anne Shellberg knows, spring can be the most difficult time. Spring is when those power bills from the winter start piling up. A broken back and a recurring battle with skin cancer ended her career as an interior designer. When we first tried setting up an interview with her in mid-March, she was in trouble…”


New York, Connecticut offset cuts to food stamps by increasing home heating assistance, By Stephen Singer (AP), March 2, 2014, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Connecticut and New York have found a way around federal budget cuts that played a central role in the massive farm bill passed this month: bump up home heating assistance a few million bucks in return for preserving more than a half-billion dollars in food stamp benefits. The moves by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — with the possibility that more governors could follow — cheer social service advocates who say the deep recession and weak economic recovery have pounded low-income workers and the unemployed who rely on heating assistance and food stamps…”

LIHEAP and SNAP – New York

New York to prevent cuts in food stamps for 300,000 families, By Cara Matthews, February 25, 2014, Journal News: “New York will dedicate roughly $6 million in additional federal heating assistance funding to prevent 300,000 households from losing food stamps because of the farm bill that Congress adopted and the president signed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today…”

Home Energy Assistance – Michigan

Michigan delays heat aid, to help before shutoff, By David Eggert, October 7, 2013, Detroit News: “Michigan residents needing help with their utility bills as the weather cools must wait until November to apply, a change that coincides with an effort to keep customers from waiting to ask for assistance until facing a service shutoff. From Nov. 1 through May 31, people will qualify for help when they get a past-due notice and no longer have to wait until they accumulate so many warnings that their utilities could be cut off. Until now, residents had been able to apply for assistance year-round, often in October with the start of the new state budget…”

Fuel Poverty – United Kingdom

Heating bills concern 38% of UK population, survey suggests, September 5, 2013, BBC News: “More than a third of people in the UK say they are concerned about paying for their heating bills this winter, a BBC Radio 5 live survey has suggested. It found 25% of people had put up with “unacceptably cold” homes in the past year as they struggle to pay bills. And 63% of the 1,035 adults surveyed said they had cut their energy use because of rising costs…”

Fuel Poverty in the UK

Fuel poverty figures show decrease, but are expected to rise again, By Hilary Osborne, May 17, 2012, The Guardian: “The number of UK households in fuel poverty fell in 2010, but rising energy bills and the reduction of funds for energy efficiency measures mean the fall is likely to be short lived, experts have warned. Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change showed that the number of households spending more than 10% of income on fuel to maintain an adequate temperature, the official definition of fuel poverty, fell by 750,000, or 11%, in 2010 to a total of 4.75 million. Despite the fall, one in five households across the UK remained in fuel poverty, and consumer groups pointed out that a £150 increase in average bills since the period the figures cover mean many more people may have been pushed back into difficulties…”

Fuel Poverty – England

  • Fuel poverty to rise to 8.5m, report warns, By Damian Kahya, March 15, 2012, BBC News: “Fuel poverty in England is likely to worsen, despite measures to try to eradicate it, a government-commissioned report has warned. Some 7.8 million people could not afford their energy bills in 2009, its author, Prof John Hills said. This is due to rise to 8.5 million by 2016. Campaigners have called for more money to be invested in cutting bills. The government has said it is committed to tackling the problem which has been linked to 2,700 deaths a year…”
  • Nine million will live in ‘fuel poverty’ in the next four years, By Simon Read, March 16, 2012, The Independent: “Almost nine million people will live in fuel poverty in the next four years despite ministerial pledges to eradicate it by 2016, a Government-commissioned report has warned. The author of the report, Professor John Hills, warned that official plans to fight fuel poverty are failing. ‘The Government should set out a renewed and ambitious strategy for tackling fuel poverty,’ he said. The existing definition of a household in fuel poverty is one which spends more than 10 per cent of its income on energy. But Professor Hills, director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, says the definition is misleading as it excludes some people whose incomes are so low they are reduced to spending only minuscule amounts of money on fuel. Proportionally they are not considered in fuel poverty…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

President Obama’s budget proposal targets home heating bill program, By Larry Bivins, February 20, 2012, Appleton Post-Crescent: “Once again advocates for the poor will have to appeal to Congress for an increase in funding for a program that helped more than 230,000 Wisconsinites last year pay their home heating bills. That’s because President Barack Obama has again proposed cuts to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The president wants to spend $3 billion on the program in fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1. While that represents an increase over the $2.6 billion he requested in his budget plan for the current fiscal year, it is less than the nearly $3.5 billion Congress appropriated and far short of the full authorization amount of $5.1 billion Congress approved in 2009 and in 2010…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

  • States get $845 million in home heat aid from feds, By Andrew Miga (AP), December 22, 2011, Boston Globe: “States got more than $845 million in federal home heating aid on Thursday, but the latest round of government funding won’t take the chill from the fuel assistance program, which is being cut by about a quarter this winter. New England, with its reliance on costly home heating oil, is expected to be especially hit hard by the spending cut. Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits this winter…”
  • Home heating help slashed by $1 billion, By Pamela M. Prah, December 22, 2011, “Just in time for the cold weather and holiday season, states have learned that Congress cut $1.2 billion from a program to provide heating and cooling assistance to low-income families. The large spending bill that Congress approved this month for 2012 contained about $3.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Advocates of LIHEAP had hoped Congress would fund the program at its 2010 level of $5.1 billion; it was funded at $4.7 billion for 2011, an amount that several governors urged Congress to maintain for this year. President Obama’s budget proposal would have cut LIHEAP funding by nearly 50 percent to $2.6 billion, so the congressional figure came down somewhere in the middle…”

Fuel Poverty – UK

  • One in four face fuel poverty, says Consumer Focus, December 2, 2011, BBC News: “The proportion of homes in fuel poverty in England and Wales has risen from 18% to 24% in two years, estimates suggest. Consumer Focus calculated that nearly 5.7 million households are in fuel poverty – when more than 10% of their disposable income is spent on fuel. The watchdog said the issue was particularly acute in Wales, where 41% of households were in fuel poverty…”
  • One in four households suffer from fuel poverty, By Donna Bowater and James Kirkup, December 2, 2011, The Telegraph: “New calculations by Consumer Focus show more than five million households are now forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on heating and lighting their homes. The previous forecast of 4.1 million households was made before the big six energy suppliers increased huge price rises last summer. The figure has risen 25 per cent from last year when a fifth of homes were struggling with fuel poverty after sharp increases in energy bills in the autumn. It means the Government is unlikely to meet its legal obligation to end fuel poverty within five years…”