RE: FY 2021 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Dear Ms. Meadows:
OPAE wishes to notify you that the organization and its members support the LIHEAP waiver request as drafted. We support the expansion of the types of measures eligible for support under Ohio’s HEAP-E program. Providers continue building contractor networks and are more effectively coordinating with other program funding.
Ohio has traditionally transferred 15% of LIHEAP funds to weatherization. This State policy of preferring permanent solutions to energy poverty over temporary financial assistance has greatly benefited impoverished families. We estimate that over 60,000 homes have received weatherization services as a result of the HEAP transfer during the past ten years. It allows us to serve homes that would otherwise be deferred because HWAP and utility program services are limited in scope. The transfer is critical to serving homes with the highest energy use, and families with the highest energy burden.
OPAE member agencies provide a broad array of social services, including utility bill payment assistance. Our support for the waiver request is informed by discussion among the leaders of these agencies, who have weighed the choice between permanent solutions and financial assistance. Had this money not been available in the past, 60,000 families would be far deeper in utility debt as a result of the COVID-19 emergency than they are today because of the weatherization services they receive. We need to continue the investment.
David C. Rinebolt