LIHEAP funds could save lives in Texas
September 17, 2009
Houston, TX – Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) has asked congressional leaders to fully fund a program that reduces heat- and cold-related deaths by helping people with limited and fixed incomes pay their utility bills.
Green and Republican Chip Pickering of Mississippi spearheaded a bipartisan letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader John Boehner, and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Appropriations Committee asking for at least $3.12 billion in additional funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Thirty-six other members of Congress also signed the letter.
“Many households must make the tough choice between paying their energy bills or buying food or medicine as energy costs are consuming up to 30 percent of monthly household incomes,” Green said in the letter. “In addition, the advent of severe weather is fueling demand; the heartlands are struggling with sustained summer heat even as citizens in other regions gird for what will assuredly be an equally difficult winter.”
According to a heat mortality study conducted by Dr. Laurence Kalkstein of the University of Miami and Dr. Scott Greene of the University of Oklahoma in 2007, an average of 24 people in the Houston area die needlessly each summer because of the heat.
Thirty-two million households qualified for help paying their utility bills this year through LIHEAP, but only five million actually received help because of limited funds. Congress has authorized up to $5.1 billion for LIHEAP, but only $1.98 billion has been appropriated.
“Rising energy costs have reduced the purchasing power of LIHEAP grants. If Congress adjourns without addressing this problem, states like Texas will be left with insufficient resources to take care of their most vulnerable citizens,” Green said.
To learn more about Texas programs helping with utility bills and weatherization, and apply for assistance, visit the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Web site at https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/ea/index.htm. You can also call 1-877-399-8939 or write to the Energy Assistance Section, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, P.O. Box 13941, Austin, Texas 78711-3941.
Tips from the Houston Fire Department to avoid heat-related medical emergencies:
· Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-replacement beverages before you conduct outside activities and before you start to feel thirsty.
· Avoid beverages or food sources with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
· Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when it is cooler. Individuals unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks. Take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility.
· A wide-brimmed, loose-fitting hat that allows ventilation helps prevent sunburn and heat-related emergencies. A tight-fitting baseball cap is not the best choice when conducting strenuous outdoors activities. Sunscreen also helps protect injury from the sun's rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
· Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration. Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a vehicle.