Energy bill help not as short here



A Federal Way-based effort supporting people who can’t pay their home-energy bills is faring better than other ones around the nation in the face of delays in federal funding.

The federal government has been slow in releasing Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) money, causing many programs to shut down. A survey in December by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) found that 16 states had closed or were ready to halt their programs.

In Federal Way, though, low-income home-energy assistance administered by Multi-Service Center is plugged into other funding sources.

Nancy Hohenstein, the center’s director of community relations, said the absence of LIHEAP “has closed down our ability to serve our customers with those funds. But we are fortunate enough here to have a second program funded by Puget Sound Energy, the HELP program.”

HELP is accepting applications from Puget Sound Energy customers faced with possible shutoffs of service, Hohenstein said.

She added the outlook for consumers of LIHEAP is bleak, however, regardless of when that funding is released. The program’s financial support has been lowered from last year’s levels. Statewide in Washington, it’s down 8 percent. The cut nationally is 10 percent.

In addition to Washington, at least seven states –– Delaware, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia ––and the District of Columbia are out of LIHEAP funds.

Programs in another eight states were expected to dry up and close around the end of December, according to Mark Wolfe, executive director of NEADA, an organization of the state directors of LIHEAP.

The $844 million that had been released isn’t enough to keep programs running, Wolfe said.

“More and more states will close down their programs, creating unnecessary hardships for millions of low-income families,” he said.

Through LIHEAP and HELP, Multi-Service Center has helped low-income qualifiers with energy conservation, weatherization and furnace repairs and replacements.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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