States are anticipating a difficult winter as they make plans for the their respective heating assistance programs. It looks like another very hard winter for Americans who are already suffering from the harsh effects of the recession.
With high unemployment and increased poverty, there is an increased demand for this heating assistance programs. Many of the people who will feel the effects are senior citizens.
Last year, this program helped a quarter of a million families in Georgia heat their homes.
Nancy Smith with the Middle Georgia Community Action Agency says she’s hoping for a warm winter.
The combination of heating costs increasing by 40% last year and an unemployment rate of 10%, this is going to be a very harsh winter for struggling Americans in Pennsylvania.
Just to give you a little perspective,
Eligibility for assistance this winter was reduced to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, from 160 percent last year. An individual earning up to $16,335 or a family of four earning up to $33,525 qualifies for aid.
The program’s minimum cash benefit, which is paid directly to a recipient’s utility or fuel supplier, has been reduced to $100 from $300 last year. LIHEAP “crisis” grants, which aid people who run out of fuel or have, heating equipment emergencies, are $300, down from $400 last winter.
The situation is also dire in New Hampshire which has been readying itself for cuts to its version of the federally funded program.
New Hampshire plans to keep its benefit level the same as last winter, about $700, AP reported. But the state would likely cut the number of households it assists if federal funding is reduced, Celeste Lovett, who runs the program in New Hampshire, told AP.
Connecticut plans a different approach.
Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy had proposed excluding households that rely on gas or electric heat from the program, arguing that state law protects them from having their utilities shut off for nonpayment during the winter while no such protection exists for those who rely on oil, propane, kerosene, coal or wood.
If you spend a little time on Google, story after story conveys the same message. Unemployment is up heating costs are up. Demand for assistance is also up. However, eligibility will be more stringent since the program is expected to be cut by half. In Oregon, a household’s income must be 60% of the state’s median income to qualify for the program.
If this was simply a matter of skipping the world cruise, or buying one less Mercedes, one could understand and applaud this sort of cut. However, it like other cuts in government programs are directed at the same people who are suffering the most, with the least resources. Cutting expenses means going without food, or medicine. These are hardly extraneous expenses, unless you live in a Dickens novel or in the United States in 2011.
For people in this situation, cutting expenses means more children going hungry more often. As it stands, 42% of American children live in low income households. That means, below the national poverty threshold. According to the AARP, 16% of seniors are living in poverty as a directly result of the recession.
Government cuts to home heating programs are a result of previous cuts to the program at the Federal level. In the name of accommodating the GOP whose are convinced that if someone is poor and freezing it’s their own fault. Meanwhile, we hear stories about Republican congressman “struggling” to live on $400,000 a year or how the rich would suffer great hardship if they had to endure a tax increase. At least they would be enduring it in a heated home.