BEND, OR -- A local nonprofit is forced to substantially scale back its Energy Assistance Program, this week, due to a lack of resources. NeighborImpact announced Monday it would reduce appointments and services for those in the tri-county area.
Lynne McConnell, with NeighborImpact, says several factors led to the decision, "On of them is that it’s been a crazy winter. There’s more need this year than there have been in past years. In addition to that, because it’s been so cold, people’s power bills have been going up compared to last year. So, we’re seeing higher power bills, which means that we’re getting the money out the door more quickly." And, she tells KBND News, "There’s a lot of uncertainty on both the federal and state level of what budgets are going to look like. Normally we would be getting additional money from the federal government sometime around this time of year. We have no idea, under continuing resolution, if that’s going to come through. And, if so, when it will." Funds provided through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, have been exhausted. In the past, the nonprofit has received an additional 10% allocation to help local clients.
Between October 1 and February 8, NeighborImpact helped 5,226 people pay electric bills, totaling over $1.3-million. McConnell says they don’t usually see those numbers until March or April. And, winter isn't over: "Power bills for this month are just now hitting mailboxes, this week." McConnell says there may be other help available for low income families, "There are some wonderful nonprofits in churches, in the faith community, that can sometimes provide assistance. But, when we’re talking about numbers in the thousands, I think it’s impossible to think that folks are going to be able to meet the need. We are encouraging people to talk to their power companies about work-out options, whatever those might be. That’s absolutely the first place people should go."
NeighborImpact is still able to help Pacific Power customers with a final shut-off notice or who have been disconnected, but that’s on a first-come first-served basis, by calling 541-504-2155 to schedule an appointment. For more information, click HERE or contact Lynne McConnell at 541-323-6569.