NEW ORLEANS - Entergy Corporation employees and advocates for low-income residents are in Washington, D.C., this week to ask Congress for funding to help low-income families, the elderly and the disabled pay energy costs through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
On Feb. 9, Entergy employees and nonprofit group representatives will be among more than 140 advocates from across the country participating in the National Fuel Funds Network's Washington Action Day for LIHEAP. Entergy employees are there as part of their ongoing commitment to help low-income customers. LIHEAP is America's primary tool to help working-poor families pay for home energy costs, especially those families with preschoolers, elderly or disabled members.
"Congress understandably wants to address deficit spending, so we want to make sure our congressional representatives recognize the important role LIHEAP plays in helping their constituents avoid slipping further down the economic ladder and into more costly assistance programs," said Patty Riddlebarger, director of social corporate responsibility for Entergy. "Over the last three years, our community partners have reported more and more first-time LIHEAP applicants, virtually all victims of an economy that is clearly recovering, but without creating enough jobs. Congress needs to sustain a safety net for those caught in this economic tragedy, and level-funding LIHEAP is a critical part of that effort."
"This is no time to cut that net for people struggling to survive," Riddlebarger added. "We believe funding for LIHEAP should, at a minimum, stay at $5.1 billion for this fiscal year and next. Anything less will force thousands of their constituents to choose between keeping the heat and lights on or buying food or medicine. That isn't a choice anyone should face in today's America."
LIHEAP funding for FY 2011 is currently operating on an annualized rate of $5.1 billion, but the funding is only assured through March 4th. The program needs an additional $1 billion this year to be fully funded.
"LIHEAP only reaches one in five American households eligible to receive it. Any cut in funding would hurt citizens without the means to keep the heat and lights on," Riddlebarger said.
"By keeping funding at $5.1 billion in 2011, and at least that amount in fiscal year 2012, Congress can ensure states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas receive a reasonably fair share of LIHEAP funding. The need is so great," she said. "Some have proposed to return programs like LIHEAP to 2008 levels. This would be a tragic outcome for these states, whose programs could be cut by 65, 67, 69 and 76 percent, respectively. Imagine what those numbers would mean for at-risk households."
Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and approximately 15,000 employees.