Dangerous Record Heat Raises Importance of Government Program
BATON ROUGE, La. – Employees of
Entergy Louisiana, LLC, Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, L.L.C. and local
community partners are joining advocates from across the country in Washington,
D.C. today to urge Congress to restore America''s energy safety-net program to
its $5.1 billion funding level.
The effort is part of the National
Fuel Funds Network’s LIHEAP Summer Action Day on Capitol Hill. LIHEAP is the Low
Income Home Energy Assistance Program. “Hot weather records are being shattered
this summer across America, and Louisiana has been bearing its share of
sustained 90-plus-degree temperatures,” said Bill Mohl, president and chief
executive officer of Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana,
“making this issue more critical than ever.”
Current 2012 funding for LIHEAP is
$3.47 billion. U.S. House and Senate appropriators have recently endorsed
level-funding the program next year, even as poverty is rising to levels not
seen since 1965. The measures await further review and votes in the full U.S.
House and Senate. “It’s hard to fathom why LIHEAP should be 30 percent smaller
in 2013 than it was in 2009 through 2011,” continued Mohl. “LIHEAP saves lives.
It’s especially important to Louisiana’s elderly and infirm who are ill-equipped
to handle these record temperatures.
“Combined with hotter temperatures,”
he said, “America’s continued recession is endangering more and more of our
neighbors. An additional 674,000 Americans became impoverished between 2008 and
2011 in just the four states Entergy serves. Louisiana families need LIHEAP more
“LIHEAP helps low-wage workers and
low-income families in financial crisis afford their summer cooling and winter
heating costs,” explained Morgan Stewart, manager of external affairs for
Entergy’s Louisiana utilities and a participant in Action Day. “However,
LIHEAP’s positive impact to those in need depends entirely upon the financial
commitment Congress chooses to make to this life-saving program.”
To advocate for those in need of
LIHEAP assistance, Stewart and other Entergy employees are joined in Washington
by Louisiana advocates including NOVA Workforce Institute of Northern Louisiana,
Inc. and Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.
“One in eight people in our community
struggles with hunger,” said Natalie Jayroe, president and chief executive
officer of Second Harvest Food Bank. “No one should be forced to choose between
paying for housing or utilities, purchasing medication or putting food on the
table – but in current economic times, those impossible choices must be made by
more and more low income and working poor families. Funding LIHEAP at the full
$5.1 billion level is critical to helping fight this disturbing trend.”
Although LIHEAP prioritizes
households with seniors, disabled and preschoolers, the program is also
increasingly reaching households of U.S. veterans and even active-duty members
of America’s military services. One-fifth of LIHEAP recipient households has a
veteran or active-duty service member – and about 12 percent of those served in
Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Veterans drove nearly 35 percent of LIHEAP’s household
growth from 2008-11.
Record hot weather can push at-risk
citizens to make choices with potential life-or-death implications. On average,
there are 400 heat-related deaths a year in the U.S.
This summer, the need for energy
assistance is rising with the mercury. Locally, Louisiana has the fourth lowest
residential electric bills in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy
Information Agency. The state’s average price for electricity is the lowest it
has been since before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. However, Louisiana
started the year with its second warmest six-month period (January – June) in
118 years, driving record power usage in many parts of the state.
Louisiana’s 18.8 percent poverty rate
is America’s fifth-highest.
“We’re doing all we can to help
Louisianans meet their cooling and heating needs,” said Mohl.
In addition to engaging
representatives in Congress, Entergy also provides local assistance through the
company’s Beat the Heat program and the Power to Care fund, which allows
customers and employees to contribute toward helping low-income customers with
monthly utility bills. New online tools recently introduced at
customers interactive virtual assistance to help them manage their electricity
usage and access payment options.
“Initiatives like these can really
make a difference as energy costs as a percentage of income can be four times
higher for LIHEAP-eligible families than for those with higher incomes,” Mohl
said. “Through LIHEAP Summer Action Day, we are urging Congress to look to the
future and provide the $5.1 billion needed for LIHEAP. By doing so, we are
helping ensure warm-weather states like Louisiana get the necessary funds to
help those in need manage the devastating heat of summer.”
Entergy’s Louisiana utility companies
serve more than one million customers through the operating companies Entergy
Louisiana, LLC and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, L.L.C. With operations in
southern, central and northeastern Louisiana, the companies are part of Entergy
Corporation’s electric system serving 2.8 million customers in Louisiana,
Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.
Twitter: @ EntergyLA