James is a Gulf War vet whose injuries only allow him to manage part-time work. Beulah is a senior citizen living alone in a drafty, older home. Heather is a young single mother with two small children and a minimum-wage job.
This week, I am honored to travel to Washington, D.C., as part of Action Day for America’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. During these face-to-face meetings with well-known congressmen, senators and staffers, it will be the little-known and often overlooked faces of James, Beulah and Heather I will have in mind. While their names are not real, their daily struggle is. Their households are among the nearly four million in states served by Entergy’s utility companies that qualify for LIHEAP.
LIHEAP is a critical service that helps low-income residents manage heating and cooling costs. The program is literally a lifesaver for many, as increasingly severe temperatures can threaten the health and welfare of the 25 percent of Entergy customers who live in poverty.
Brister and Entergy’s Brady Aldy (right) met with U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman, Arkansas.
Today, only a fraction of families who qualify actually receive assistance through LIHEAP. The program has been drastically underfunded in recent years while the eligible population grows, weather conditions become more severe and utility bills are pushed beyond the means of low-income customers.
Through in-person meetings this week during LIHEAP Action Day, our coalition of Entergy representatives and local community advocates will encourage our legislators to turn the tide on LIHEAP by increasing funding and ensuring residents in the states with the highest rates of poverty receive their fair share of support.
Our advocacy for LIHEAP is one of the many ways Entergy helps power life for low-income customers through a wide range of community improvement programs. Our own energy assistance fund, The Power to Care, makes emergency bill payments for nearly 15,000 qualifying customers annually. The Power to Care is funded through the charitable donations of our customers, employees and owners.
My hope is that by sharing the stories of James, Beulah and Heather this week with legislators, I will help put a face on a very real need that LIHEAP can so easily relieve if fully and fairly funded.
You can help. Encourage our congressional delegation to action by adding your organization’s name to a letter of support here. If you’d like to also help your neighbors in need through Entergy’s The Power to Care, contributions can be made here.
Liz Brister, manager of Entergy’s low-income programs, is a lifelong community advocate and serves on the board of the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition that organizes LIHEAP Action Day.