LIHEAP Conference held in Lake Charles

By Jason Belk - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A conference featuring Lake Charles community advocates, Entergy employees and local government officials urging Congress to provide better funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was held this morning.

The numbers discussed at the press conference were enough to raise a few eyebrows.

"For every five people that are eligible, only person at current funding can be served," said Adrian Wallace, the Lake Charles Assistant City Administrator.

The program helps low income, elderly and disabled Louisiana residents pay their home heating and cooling bills.

Nationwide, only one out of five eligible families are helped by the program, and here in Louisiana only 19 percent.

For supporters like Randy Vincent, the warm summer months bring a greater need for LIHEAP's assistance.

"We do have low income citizens that qualify, but they make enough to take care of their responsibilities, but just that once or twice a year that they fall into a crunch during the hot summer months or the cold winter, is when they need assistance," said Vincent.

For those involved with LIHEAP, being able to identify with those in need of the assistance is what makes them feel so strongly about seeing it improve.

"No one should ever have to choose between paying a bill and food and medicine. And being from a utility company, we see this every day. We see customers choose to pay a bill instead of buying their medicine or buying food," said Sheila Pounders, Entergy's Regional Customer Service Manager.

LIHEAP supporters believe Congress should add $2.5 billion for the rest of 2010 and sustain the program's total funding at $7.6 billion for 2011.

A number that would benefit the 635,000 households in Louisiana that qualify for LIHEAP assistance.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.