The authors note that the main safety net program for EI, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), covers only a fraction of the overall need. Of the estimated 10-15 million homes eligible for benefits in 2012, a mere 5.5 million were served. This stems in part from a lack of awareness that the program exists. The program is also hampered by lack of funding despite rising energy prices; during the years 2011-2013, the program suffered a $1.2 billion budget cut.
"When we took a hard look at LIHEAP, the main safety net program for energy assistance, we found multiple constraints. In addition to funding shortfalls, the program is designed to provide rate discounts, debt forgiveness and different types of waivers when what this population desperately needs is energy-efficiency retrofits and interventions," says Diana Hernndez, PhD, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health. According to Dr. Hernandez, a co-author of the study, drastic spending cuts in the aftermath of Stimulus Funding have also impacted the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
"Our country has embraced energy conservation heartily but we have not put nearly enough emphasis on serving low-income populations who urgently need assistance," says Rene Wilson-Simmons, DrPH, director of the National Center for Children in Poverty. "This study will shine a light on families who are burdened by disproportionate energy expenditures."
On a positive note, the study points to private foundations and non-profit organizations, such as the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), that are addressing the needs of low-income popu
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health