Opinion: Struggling American families face blackouts if Congress doesn’t act 2022-04-28 10:47:27


Now, many families are facing potential power outages if they are unable to pay their overdue home energy bills. In fact, more than 20 million families are currently behind on their lives Water and electricity billsat about $23 billion, up from about $10.5 billion at the end of 2019. The White House, Congress, and states must work together to quickly address this looming crisis.
Height energy prices A major factor behind this increase in utility debt. Natural gas prices rose over the past 12 months by 21.6%, electricity by 11.1% and fuel oil by 70.1%. For low-income families, the annual cost of home energy From $2,511 in 2019 to $3,399 last year. If current trends continue, the cost could reach about $3,957 this year, nearly 58% higher than costs in 2019. Moreover, families are struggling with high inflation rates for other essentials such as gasoline, food and rent.
When the family is cut off from power, they cut off food, medicine, and other necessities in order to reconnect as quickly as possible. An estimated 3.5 million people disconnected in 2020 and 2021 in 32 states plus the District of Columbia.
The federal funds available aren’t enough to help families pay off their debts in full and deal with their bills. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided states with an additional $4.5 billion for the federal government Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides formula grants to states to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. The White House recommended that other countries use refund money Well to help families pay these bills, let Services Not to isolate families who have applied for assistance. While 14 facilities Commit to keeping families connected while they wait for help, as this is unlikely to be enough to completely solve the problem.
Countries are also taking steps to protect families, too. New York Governor Cathy Hochhol recently announced $250 million in funding for the pandemic utility debts. Other states will likely follow suit when closing notices are sent out, but this piecemeal approach won’t protect struggling families across the country.
additional, LIHEAP FEDERAL FUNDING It is only enough to help about 18% of eligible families, and even then, it only pays a portion of home energy billsThis leaves millions of families unable to pay their bills month after month.

What is needed is a nationwide, structured approach to keeping energy affordable for low-income families.

Opinion: Millions of Americans will go hungry if Congress doesn't act soon
First, all natural gas and electric utility companies must agree that no family will be cut off from power while applying for energy assistance. Second, all available energy assistance resources must be coordinated as a “one-stop” application, so families do not have to apply to multiple offices for assistance. Third, in case of insufficient funds, long-term payment plans should be made available to the families so that no one is cut off from power. Finally, Congress should provide $5 billion in additional funding to LIHEAP energy help This year to help bridge the gap between available funds and outstanding utility bills.
Once we get past this immediate crisis, we as a nation need to develop a better strategy to help families pay their home energy bills, especially when energy prices are rising faster than incomes. There was a lot policy proposals To address the prohibitive energy costs, however, two solutions stand out as possible solutions. The first is setting “lifeline” base rates for energy, which require utilities to provide a certain amount of energy to each family — enough to run basic heating and cooling systems and appliances — at affordable, discounted rates for low-income families. The second is to cap the energy costs of households based on their ability to pay. This PIPP ensures that the family never owes more than they can afford for energy, and the state picks up the rest of the tab. Several countries, including Ohio And Illinoiscurrently offers PIPP to low-income families, and similar programs have run in other states in the past.

Congress, the administration, and states must work to address both the short-term shutdown crisis looming this spring, as well as the longer-term issue of energy affordability by implementing comprehensive, integrated solutions so that no family is concerned. about closing.