Fuel Funds and LIHEAP
Compiled by the LIHEAP Clearinghouse
A fuel fund is a program that raises private and/or corporate dollars to help low-income households meet their energy needs. While all fuel funds meet this definition, there is tremendous variety among them in organizational structure, sponsorship, operations, and fundraising activities.
Most fuel funds involve a working relationship between one or more utilities and one or more social service or charitable organizations. The utility partner is responsible for raising private donations for the fund through customer, shareholder, corporate or other contributions, and the social services partner administers the funds to provide energy assistance to low-income households. In many cases, utilities match customer contributions at least dollar for dollar.
Fuel funds may also be coordinated and integrated with LIHEAP; in fact, this is increasingly important in light of LIHEAP leveraging incentive funds that states can apply for based upon the amount of additional home energy resources they have acquired for their low-income households.
Fuel funds can provide a flexible response to families in crisis who have exhausted all public sources of help, whose needs are extraordinary, or who do not quite meet their state's requirements for LIHEAP assistance. Fuel funds develop their own eligibility and income guidelines based on community experiences and needs.
Virtually all fuel funds provide some form of assistance to low-income households in helping them afford household energy costs. This assistance includes helping eligible households pay their energy bills, or purchasing large quantities of fuel oil, wood, and coal and making it available to eligible clients.
Some fuel funds have broadened their missions to include furnace retrofits and repairs, weatherization, energy education and counseling, and development and implementation of innovative budgeting and bill payment programs. Still others responded to changing energy markets by carving a niche for themselves in the utility restructuring process.
NATIONAL FUEL FUNDS NETWORK (NFFN)
Formed in 1984, NFFN is a broad-based membership organization whose 300 plus members include private fuel and energy assistance funds, utilities, community action and social services agencies, government entities and individuals. NFFN’s purpose is to increase the resources available to meet the energy needs of low-income people, promote charitable energy assistance through the media and lobby for increased federal energy assistance at the national and grassroot levels.
NFFN members raise about $120 million in charitable energy aid each year. George Coling, NFFN’s executive director, says that most support comes from utility customers whose donations are often matched by the company.
NFFN's activities include its annual conference, in which members receive training and continuing education, technical assistance to members, production of booklets, tapes and a quarterly newsletter, advocacy on federal low-income energy assistance issues and special coalition-building projects.
Since 2002, the NFFN’s Washington Action Day for LIHEAP has brought together NFFN members and LIHEAP supporters to Washington DC to kick-off lobbying for additional funding for LIHEAP. In 2009, more than 190 NFFN members and advocates representing both utility companies and non-profit agencies visited some 200 Congressional offices including most of the new members in the House and Senate.
Since 2003, NFFN’s Mobilization for Charitable Energy Assistance has engaged governors across the U.S. to promote giving for charitable energy assistance. Each fall NFFN’s Chairperson writes to all state governors, urging them to encourage their residents to contribute to energy assistance funds and to educate the public about available assistance. NFFN produces a Mobilization toolkit that has examples of successful mobilization efforts, model language and other resources to help its members encourage their governors to participate.
Governors across the nation have responded to the Mobilization and have promoted charitable giving in their states with media events, proclamations designating energy assistance weeks and educational and legislative campaigns.
NFFN launched its Energy Safety Net Project in 2000, to promote, through the Safety Net Bulletins, the innovative measures that members and others were taking to prepare for and cope with the projected price rises. The Safety Net Bulletins continue as a monthly publication that highlights current legislative, utility and fuel fund actions.
A list of NFFN publications can be found on its website or by contacting: NFFN, 1010 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 718, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 824-0660.
FUEL FUNDS AND LEVERAGING
Up to $25 million in LIHEAP leveraging incentive funds has been available annually to state and tribal LIHEAP grantees since FY 1991. Briefly, leveraged resources are non-federal home energy resources that LIHEAP grantees have acquired for their low-income households. Provided certain statutory criteria are met, many grantees should be able to count fuel fund assistance in their leveraging reports.
The final rule implementing the leveraging provisions of LIHEAP was published May 1, 1995 in the Federal Register. The criteria that fuel funds and other resources must meet in order to be counted and how resources are quantified are explained in the rule. At a minimum, fuel funds must be specifically coordinated and integrated with LIHEAP programs and described in a grantee's LIHEAP plan in order to be counted. A fuel fund that is operated independently of LIHEAP, even though it serves low-income people within federal poverty guidelines, would probably not qualify as a leveraged resource.
Questions as to whether specific fuel fund resources can be counted as leveraged resource can only be answered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional background information on leveraging is available from the Clearinghouse, as are copies of the leveraging regulations.
Since 1991, the LIHEAP Clearinghouse has been tabulating the amount of fuel funds claimed by states and Indian tribes or tribal organizations as leveraged resources. For FY 1991, 29 states claimed $16 million from fuel funds. That amount has increased to $117 million claimed by 40 states in FY 2007. While only a handful of tribes reported fuel funds as leveraged resources in the past, most tribes reported receiving tribal government funds to supplement LIHEAP, especially for energy emergencies.
The LIHEAP Clearinghouse state supplements tables provide a state-by-state estimate of fuel fund leveraging activity per states' LIHEAP leveraging reports for FY 1991 through FY 2007. Note that these totals differ from those reported under leveraging and are not accurate reflections of national fuel fund activity for the following reasons: some states may include fuel fund dollars with funds raised by community, church or charitable groups; some may not report all fuel fund activity; and a fuel fund may serve above-income households or pay for non-energy utilities such as water or phones, which would not be countable resources under LIHEAP leveraging.
EXAMPLES OF FUEL FUNDS
The Victorine Q. Adams Fuel Fund, formerly the Baltimore Fuel Fund, one of the oldest fuel funds, was organized in 1979 when an oil embargo limited supply, and energy prices soared. Victorine Q. Adams, a Baltimore City councilwoman and noted civil rights activist, intervened and the fuel fund was born. Baltimore Gas & Electric provided a seed grant of $10,000 and matches customer contributions dollar for dollar.
The Fuel Fund of Maryland is an umbrella organization comprised of local fuel funds in 15 counties that provide supplemental assistance for poor families. The Fuel Fund provides assistance for one-third of the bill, the household pays one-third of the bill and the remaining one-third is covered by credits made available by Baltimore Gas & Electric customers. The Fuel Fund of Maryland distributed about $4.4 million through local agencies to 9,499 households in FY 2007.
Other fuel funds in Maryland, Columbia Gas Heat Share, Washington Area Fuel Fund, Delmarva Good Neighbor Energy Fund and Southern Maryland Tri County Fuel Fund, distribute about $1 million each year for energy assistance.
The Philadelphia Utility Emergency Services Fund was created in 1983 by utility companies, public officials, business leaders, and community organizations in response to increased terminations of gas, electric, and water service coupled with inadequate LIHEAP benefits. Philadelphia's three major utilities (gas, electric and water) provide a dollar-for-dollar match to every dollar raised and contribute to the fund's operating costs. The fund receives local government support through the Community Development Block Grant. The Fund provided over $1.6 million in energy crisis assistance benefits to 5,882 households in 2008.
The Dollar Energy Fund, the fourth largest fuel fund in the country, began operating in Pennsylvania in October of 1983 to help people without heat and light and assist those who were not able to keep up with their utility bill payments. The program has grown rapidly from serving 1,218 clients with $397,199 during its first year, to serving between 10,000 and 12,000 households with $3.5 to $4 million through a network of over 180 community-based organizations. The Dollar Energy Fund partners with 14 utilities across Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia. Each utility matches every donation dollar for dollar and makes a separate donation towards the fund's administrative expenses.
Kentucky's WinterCare fund was established in 1983 as a partnership between Kentucky Utilities, an investor-owned electric company, and the Community Action Council (CAC) for Lexington-Fayette, Bourbon, Harrison and Nicholas counties. In 1984, the Kentucky Public Service Commission mandated that other regulated utilities participate in WinterCare or develop acceptable alternatives.
Currently 31 utilities and 22 community action agencies (CAAs) serving 119 of the state's 120 counties participate in WinterCare, which is managed by the CAC and administered by community action agencies. A public relations firm donates advertising services and utilities raise the funds and contribute to administrative costs. Participating CAAs contribute to local administration. In 2008, WinterCare provided over $500,000 to supplement LIHEAP crisis payments.
The Crisis Assistance Ministry is a partnership of the religious community, United Way and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, that addresses utility, food, and basic needs. It was founded during the recession of 1975 by the religious community as a service ministry of the Charlotte Area Clergy Association. In 1985, after an extensive joint study, Mecklenburg County and the United Way appointed the Ministry as the lead agency to coordinate all emergency financial assistance in the county and in 2001, the crisis assistance program in Mecklenburg County was merged with the agency to create a one-stop shop for emergency financial assistance to prevent eviction and utility disconnect.
Through a public-private partnership, Mecklenburg County and United Way provide most of the Ministry's operating funds. Contributions are received from area congregations, the City of Charlotte, individuals, foundations, businesses and community organizations. In 2007, $3.7 million, 41 percent of total Emergency Financial Assistance funds, was paid to households for emergency utility assistance.
While most fuel funds operate through a combination of utility, customer, and shareholder contributions, Alabama and Arizona are among states with fuel funds endowed specifically by utility shareholders. These funds operate on interest generated from endowments.
In 1996, Tucson Electric Power Company set aside $4.5 million in shareholder funds for the Low-Income Fund for Emergencies (LIFE) Fund. The interest generated from the fund has been used to offset cuts in LIHEAP. The monthly interest, about $19,000 per month, allowed 1,021 households to receive $232,034 in energy assistance benefits in FY 2007. The Fund is administered by the Salvation Army.
The Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund, Inc. was created with Alabama Power shareholder funds in 1992. It complements and supplements another fund, Project Share, and LIHEAP by providing cooling or emergency assistance for qualified households with health risks or in a severe financial crisis. In 2008, the trust spent $985,000 for energy assistance for 5,800 households. The Trust is administered by community action agencies and other social service agencies in the 60-county area of central and south Alabama.
Alabama's Project Share is funded by contributions from Alabama Power and Alabama Gas, customers, employees, and stockholders. Since its inception in 1982, 24 electric cooperatives and municipalities have joined the program. In 2008, over $1.4 million in benefits was distributed to senior citizens, disabled persons, and those on fixed or low incomes. The program is funded totally through $1 monthly contributions from utility customers and is administered by the American Red Cross.
The Energy Share program in Montana was organized in 1982 and until the late 1990s was funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, organizations, churches, utilities and electric cooperatives.
Other funds for Energy Share became available under Montana’s 1997 utility restructuring law that requires gas and electric utilities to implement a Universal System Benefits Program funded through a non-bypassable Universal Systems Benefits Charge (USBC) for the purpose of low-income conservation and energy bill assistance and renewables programs. In February 1999, the Montana Public Service Commission ruled that 21 percent of the total electric USBC would be allocated among low-income weatherization, bill payment assistance, small low-income renewables projects, outreach, and Energy Share. The majority of the electric USBC comes from NorthWestern Energy, the state's largest utility.
Additional funds for Energy Share come from an endowment made possible by 1997 state legislation that provides a 50 percent tax credit for planned gifts and corporate donations to a qualifying endowment. In FY 2006, the endowment had grown enough to use interest earnings to match a utility grant.
Energy Share provides up to $400 per applicant for fuel bill obligations or emergency heating system repairs—$890,000 in benefits were paid to households in 2008. The fund is unique in that it provides assistance as a loan rather than a grant and encourages recipients to repay their loans so that the money can be used to help another household in need.
Project Share, a statewide fuel fund, was established in 1984 through a partnership between Georgia Power and the Salvation Army. The fund, which is administered by the Salvation Army, was started with $100,000 in seed money from Georgia Power. While other utilities in the state contribute to the fund, Georgia Power and its customers donate about 85 percent of the total. Customers add contributions to monthly bill payments that are matched by Georgia Power. Over $2.3 million assisted about 50,000 households in 2007.
The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is an independent non-profit agency, established in 1985, that provides low-income individuals and families with emergency energy assistance and advocates for long-term solutions to energy issues.
During the 2007-2008 heating season, THAW distributed almost $11 million in energy assistance to more than 9,000 households. DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, SEMCO Energy and MGU match all customer contributions. Many deliverable fuel/heating oil companies also contribute to THAW.
Mid America Assistance Coalition (MAAC) has distributed utility funds to Kansas City area agencies since 1982. MAAC not only manages utility fuel funds but provides training and support for case managers to help homeless families. MAAC manages seven funds, five sponsored by three utility companies, a trust fund established by the Jackson County legislature and a fund sponsored by local media. More than $600,000 each year helps over 4,000 families pay their utility bills.
MAAC has received recognition for its extensive database of social service programs. Called MAACLink, it includes food pantries, fuel funds, homeless shelters and social service agencies. It keeps on-line records of agencies providing emergency services and of people who are served, in order to distribute resources most effectively, to identify those who may need more referrals or intensive case management, and to maintain accurate statistics of need so that policy makers can make informed decisions.
MAAC has regularly received funds through a little known resource, the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). In effect in thirteen states, NAP allows state governments to provide tax credits to contributing businesses equal to one-half of their contributions to eligible programs.
In late 1997 a coalition of New Jersey's top energy companies and non-profit agencies formed New Jersey SHARES (Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services), a non-profit statewide fuel fund. It began taking applications for assistance in the fall of 1998.
Michael Swayze, then chair of the New Jersey Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) spearheaded the effort to create New Jersey SHARES and said the impetus for a statewide fund came from workshops he attended at the National Low-Income Energy Consortium and National Fuel Funds Network annual conferences in Indianapolis in 1994.
A LIEN report detailing the need for a statewide fund stated that only about 4,000 New Jersey households were assisted by fuel funds and the amount raised was about $400,000, much less than neighboring states. LIEN also cited data from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities showing that 151,000 New Jersey households lost their energy utility service in 1997 because of past-due bills. LIEN's "Fuel Fund Task Force Final Report," outlined the need for New Jersey SHARES.
New Jersey SHARES was funded principally by a $1 million start-up grant from Public Service Gas & Electric Company. In 2002, a law was passed that earmarked 75 percent of Jew Jersey’s Unclaimed Utility Deposits Trust Fund to New Jersey Shares. Utility customer contributions and the 75 percent of unclaimed utility deposits—$800,000 for 2009—are the main sources of continued funding. Administrative costs are covered by the seven major investor-owned utility companies.
In December 2008, as part of his Economic Assistance and Recovery Plan for New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill providing $10 million for NJ Shares. Through the additional state funding, assistance expanded to include those using deliverable fuels, such as oil, for heat.
In 2009, the Commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved over $2.8 million for NJ Shares allotted through the Global Warming Solutions Fund from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction held in December 2008.
Oregon created its fuel fund, Oregon Energy Services, in 1987 with $1.5 million in Exxon Petroleum Violation Escrow Funds. The program, now known as Oregon HEAT (Home Energy Assistance Team), was initially involved in energy education and case management, with a goal of encouraging energy self-sufficiency but has narrowed its focus to providing crisis assistance.
In 1999, during Oregon’s restructuring debate, HEAT worked with a consumer and low-income coalition that provided input to guarantee that energy assistance remain available under restructuring. The coalition pressed for a systems benefits fund, a portion of which would supplement weatherization. The 1999 restructuring law established a $60 million Public Purpose Charge, of which $7.8 million is earmarked for low-income weatherization, and a meter charge on customers of the state's two investor-owned electric utilities for low-income rate assistance.
The meter charge brought much media attention to the need for bill payment assistance and HEAT had some of its best fundraising years. About that same time, in October 1999, HEAT sent an annual report to donors for the first time that included expenses, number of households served, and feature stories. The response rate from donors was very good. Also, a major utility, Pacific Power was bought by Scottish Power and for the first time, instead of a flat corporate donation, customer donations were matched dollar-for-dollar. In response, Pacific Power customer donations almost doubled.
The majority of funds for HEAT continues to come from utility customer donations with additional cash donations and in-kind contribution from supporting utilities. About 4,400 households received almost $1.5 million in energy assistance in 2008.
Oregon HEAT also started an innovative state-wide oil donation program in 2007. Excess heating oil and recycled petroleum products from households, businesses and industry are used to assist local families facing a home-heating crisis.
For 25 years, TXU’s Energy Aid fund has helped households with summer or winter bill payments. Every dollar donated by customers and employees is matched with $5 from TXU Energy. The utility is adding $5 million per year to the fund for 5 years through 2012. TXU distributes the contributions to social service agencies across the state that administer the funds to families in need.
STATE-SPONSORED FUEL FUNDS
Some fuel funds have been created and have received initial funding through state legislative or executive action. Oregon, Colorado, and Minnesota have created non-profit entities specifically to solicit and distribute funds to supplement LIHEAP, and, in Oregon, to provide services after LIHEAP has ceased operations.
Colorado's fund, the Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC) was created specifically to benefit LIHEAP. Originated in 1989 through an executive order of the governor, it is a public/private partnership of government agencies, low-income advocacy groups, the business community, and utilities. In its first year, EOC obtained donations of office space from an oil company, typewriters and office equipment from a gas company, and design and printing of a foundation brochure from a bank. Another utility funded a $30,000 study of how LIHEAP could be operated more cheaply and efficiently. As a result of the study, six fuel companies and utilities contributed nearly $200,000 for the purchase of a computer system and development of an automated client tracking system.
Since 1991, EOC has granted between $1 million and $3 million annually to the state LIHEAP. Early funding sources included a statewide settlement agreement resulting from the decommissioning of the Fort St. Vrain nuclear power plant. EOC initially received $1 million from the settlement, and then $1.5 million annually until 2003. Another major funding source is legislation allowing unclaimed deposits and a portion of overcharge refunds to go to EOC. Many utilities match customer donations and donate unclaimed customer deposits. In1992, EOC conducted an outreach campaign asking utility customers to donate to EOC all or part of an overcharge refund they were to receive. This resulted in about $1.7 million in donations.
In the winter of 1994-95, EOC started providing energy assistance through 11 partner agencies. In 2007-08, EOC contributed $8.75 million to over 100 agencies across the state and $2.15 million to the state LIHEAP.
EOC also provided $800,000 in grants to 18 affordable housing organizations during 2007-2008; 1,000 housing units received energy efficient upgrades.
EOC was at the table during the state's restructuring debate. In 1997, Colorado's governor appointed an Energy Assistance Reform Task Force whose charge was to develop a strategy to address energy needs of low-income Coloradans in light of federal funding cuts and pending utility restructuring. Karen Brown, then executive director of EOC, served on the task force and helped draft its final report, which included a series of recommendations to assure continued or expanded funding for low-income energy services and low-income consumer protections in the event of restructuring.
EOC represented the low income on a 30-member panel that conducted an in-depth study of electric restructuring to determine its potential effects on Colorado families, businesses and environment. The panel finished its evaluation in 1999; the majority concluded that "restructuring is not in the best interest of all Colorado electricity consumers and not in the best interest of the State as a whole."
The Campaign to Keep Wisconsin Warm (CKWW), was created in 1994 by Energy Services, Inc, (ESI), a non-profit that provides LIHEAP services in the Madison area. It received $200,000 in seed money in late 1996, as one of several low-income energy pilots funded by the Wisconsin governor's office from oil overcharge funds.
Within less than a year, CKWW succeeded in raising over $200,000 in matching funds from private sector contributions. ESI's original goal had been to match the money within two years. A combination of media outreach and grassroots support contributed to the ahead-of-schedule match. Promotions to increase public awareness of the fund and low-income energy needs in Wisconsin included a utility-sponsored spending spree, a partnership with a fast food chain, billboards, TV coverage, and feature news stories.
In 1998, responding to the fund's support and recognizing the need for a fuel fund and LIHEAP partnership, the Governor and the state legislature provided CKWW additional $700,000 through oil overcharge funds.
Now known as the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund (KWWF), it operates as a statewide program and is a unique public/private partnership. All funds raised are currently matched dollar-for-dollar by the state of Wisconsin. With ESI as the primary administering agency, funds are provided to preferentially-selected LIHEAP administering agencies and other non-profits for distribution to low-income households.
During 2008 KWWF allocated over $1.4 million to help over 4,500 Wisconsin households keep their heat and power on.
Besides providing immediate relief from energy crises, KWWF is also committed to providing long-term solutions that can lead to self-sufficiency, such as weatherization, furnace replacement and budget counseling.
The Reach Out for Warmth (ROFW) fuel fund was established in 1992 by Minnesota Statutes §119A.42, which requires the commissioner of children, families, and learning to establish a statewide fuel fund account. The statute also created the Emergency Energy Assistance Advisory Council, with members appointed by the commissioner. At least one-third of the 12-member advisory council must be composed of persons from households that are eligible for emergency energy assistance under LIHEAP. The remaining two-thirds of the advisory council must be composed of persons representing energy providers, customers, local energy assistance providers, existing fuel fund delivery agencies, and community action agencies.
The Council's mission is to advise the commissioner on Fund policy and coordination with the Energy Assistance Program (EAP), the state LIHEAP, for the benefit of low-income households.
In past years, Minnesota allocated $200,000 of its LIHEAP grant to agencies for ROFW. This allowed agencies to serve households who were in crisis but were over the 50 percent state median income eligibility for LIHEAP. Today, ROFW is funded from corporate and individual donations that are matched 2 to 1 by federal funds that are capped at $500,000. The fund is administered by the Department of Children, Families and Learning through local community action agencies.
In addition, ROFW funds can be used to repair heating systems of home owners that are faulty or not working.
In 1977, Operation Fuel was created as a crisis intervention program with a mission to raise funds to help those who didn't qualify for government programs. Connecticut's legislature passed a law requiring all of the state's utilities with at least 75,000 customers to help collect donations for Operation Fuel. Now a statewide network of over 90 fuel banks provide crisis funding, facilitate oil deliveries, stop utility service shut-offs, arrange for utility service reconnection and negotiate with energy assistance vendors on behalf of clients.
In 2008, the Connecticut legislature allocated $5 million to Operation Fuel. Households with high arrears benefited from a one-time $2.5 million program to help them pay their overdue bills. Another $1.75 million of the $5 million was used to expand Operation Fuel and another $750,000 to improve its technical and case management infrastructure.
Arizona's new statewide fuel fund, the Home Energy Assistance Fund was created in 2006. The Arizona Community Action Association was awarded a three-year contract with the state's Department of Economic Security, the LIHEAP grantee, to establish the program.
Start-up funding for the program came from a settlement with El Paso Corporation. Under the settlement with El Paso, $3 million was earmarked for low-income energy assistance. As a collaborative effort by Community Action Agencies (CAAs), utilities, private individuals, and local and state governments the Fund was created and has continuing support from utility partners, private donations, and abandoned utility deposits.
The program started in October 2007 and most CAAs administer the funds year round for heating or cooling bill payment assistance. For the 2008/2009 program year, over $380,000 has been provided to over 600 households. Program operations are supported by an online grants management system and centralized data base .
Another statewide fuel fund in Arizona, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, was mandated by the legislature and receives money from a voluntary income tax check-off. The 1992 tax year was the first collection year and $47,000 was raised. In 2007, over $35,000 provided assistance to 88 households.
In 1994, New Hampshire passed legislation allowing utilities to place unclaimed utility deposits into an existing fuel fund, Neighbors Helping Neighbors. The measure allows the public utilities commission to certify that utilities are participating in a financial assistance program that assists low-income households with utility bills. Upon certification, the utility pays 85 percent of the unclaimed funds into the fuel fund program, which is also certified by the commission. Five of six New Hampshire 's electric utilities and two gas utilities participate in the fuel fund that operates year round serving households after LIHEAP funds are exhausted.
FUEL FUNDS AND THE ECONOMY
While there has been no survey regarding the impacts of the declining economy on fuel funds, there is evidence that fuel funds are filling an increasingly important safety net function.
A policy brief released February 2009 by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development found nearly half a million seniors living alone in California cannot make ends meet, lacking sufficient income to pay for a minimum level of housing, food, health care, transportation and other basic expenses. According to the policy brief’s authors the number of struggling seniors is likely higher in 2009 since the research is based on 2007 data.
Many states are experiencing increasing need for food and energy assistance. A food pantry in Connecticut saw its clientele increase 150 percent over the past three years while statewide requests for energy assistance increased threefold.
According to state officials in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, demand for food stamps — an indicator of economic health — has reached record levels. Demand for heating assistance is also up, despite the falling price of home heating oil.
In Missouri, the Samaritan Center in Jefferson City has seen a dramatic increase in people seeking food and energy assistance. The Center is focusing its resources on its number one priority, food, and that means no funding is available to help with utilities, rent or other one-time crisis needs.
By the end of 2008, New Jersey SHARES had been inundated with requests for assistance, said Jim Jacob, executive director. Typically the non-profit processes between 12,000 and 15,000 requests for assistance per year, but when the year ended it had received some 27,000 requests and been forced to turn down more than half of them due to lack of funds.
A sluggish economy has made the 2008/2009 heating season especially difficult for many Ohio and Kentucky residents. To ease this situation, the Duke Energy Foundation contributed an additional $150,000 to Duke Energy's Ohio HeatShare program and $50,000 to the company's Kentucky WinterCare program.
Duke Energy Ohio currently contributes $100,000 each year to HeatShare and matches up to $100,000 in donations from customers and employees. Duke Energy Kentucky contributes $25,000 annually to WinterCare and matches up to $25,000 in donations.
In Virginia, Dominion donated $2.5 million to EnergyShare to help families in need pay their winter heating costs. Dominion's contribution is part of a $5 million grant made in May, 2008 in light of increased need caused by spiraling energy prices and a softening economy.
Because of the ongoing need for money to supplement low-income households' utility bills, fuel funds across the nation have learned and shared innovative methods of fundraising. Many of these are described in the Energy Safety Net Bulletins on NFFN's website.
- The Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund (KWWF) held its Seventh Annual Charity Golf Classic in 2008. Participating golfers, sponsors and donors from companies around the state raised over $270,000, which immediately assisted more than 1,126 high-risk households experiencing an energy-related crisis situation. For the 2009 golf classic, each tax-deductible $1 that is contributed will be matched with $2 in special state funds. Another golf fundraiser in Colorado raised $170,000 for Energy Outreach Colorado. More than 100 golfers, most from the natural gas and electric utilities, participated in the Fourth Annual National Fuel Marketing golf tournament.
- Another statewide fundraising event in Wisconsin partners KWWF with Culver's 112 restaurants for the annual "Week of Warmth." Culver’s offers each guest an opportunity to donate one dollar to the KWWF and receive a dollar-off certificate to use at the restaurant. All money raised during the weeklong event goes directly to families in the community where it was raised. Culver’s efforts raised more than $70,000 in 2006 that was matched dollar for dollar by the state government and Culver’s donated $10,000 for a total of $150,000.
- Fuel funds in eight Midwest states have received funds from Hardee's restaurants, which sold sausage and biscuits for $1 on selected days and gave the proceeds to the funds. In 2009, Heat Up St. Louis received more than $70,000 from this event - all monies donated helped seniors, the disabled and needy families with small children with their high heating bills.
- In 2009, THAW held its Sixth Annual Winter Survival Radiothon, a 31-hour on-air extravaganza that raised $525,000 to provide emergency energy assistance (heat and lights) to low-income families and senior citizens throughout Michigan. Conducted by WWJ Radio in Detroit, donations are matched dollar for dollar by THAW's utility partners, in particular DTE Energy Corporation. The Radiothon featured live broadcasts by WWJ anchors and reporters, live entertainment, celebrity appearances and hourly on-air auctions.
- The Dollar Energy Fund, in partnership with a Pittsburgh radio station, held its first 30-hour radiothon in 2009. Named Warmathon, the event raised $250,000 through individual and sponsor contributions.
- In 2003, NJ Shares began a program through iGive.com, an online charitable shopping mall, to collect donations. Individuals shop online at hundreds of merchants and up to 25 percent of each purchase is donated, at no extra cost, to participating charitable organizations.
- A majority of funds use bill inserts with a check-off as part of fundraising efforts with utilities covering printing and mailing costs. In St. Louis, Missouri, about 90 percent of Dollar-Help’s total receipts are donations from Laclede Gas customers who become regular monthly donors by checking the red box on their Laclede Gas bill to contribute $1, $2, or $5 to the fund or by overpaying their gas bill by $1.
- The St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Rams have teamed up with Dollar-Help for three years to assist needy families and individuals who struggle to pay their heating bills. Each team promotes the charity and volunteers collect donations prior to the games. Dollar-Help donations for 2008 exceeded $1.3 million.
- Over half of the fuel funds receive matching contributions from utilities and many of them use payroll deductions. The Fuel Fund of Maryland may be designated as a recipient of payroll deductions by state employees.
- More than one state has a Walk for Warmth event to raise funds for energy assistance and community awareness. The Michigan Community Action Association sponsors a "Walk for Warmth" where local communities raise pledges from citizens, businesses, and churches to be distributed in the communities where the money was raised. In 2008, Walk for Warmth raised over $69,000 to help 365 families with their home heating costs.
In 2009, the second Walk for Warmth event in Nebraska raised over $45,000 to help customers of three utilities with bill payments. Many more in-kind and sponsor donations helped make the Walk success.
- To diversify funding sources, Michigan’s THAW formed a partnership with the faith-based community. At least four times per year, members of congregations are asked to donate $1 or more to an account that can be used by any participating place of worship to help a family in need. So far for 2008/2009 about $124,000 has been raised through the faith-based initiative to provide assistance to about 120 households.
- While most funds solicit from residential customers, Michigan 's THAW and Wisconsin 's KWWF have solicited foundations and large industrial and commercial entities. Each year, THAW raises between $200,000 and $300,000 from foundations.
“Memo on Statewide Fuel Funds,” Roger Colton, Fisher, Sheehan and Colton , April 2005. This memo considers issues related to combining operations of multiple small local fuel funds into a single stateside fuel fund through surveys of fuel funds in NJ, PA, MI, CO, and OR. Provides important details on fuel funds’ operations.
“Fuels Funds And States Working Together: Model Programs For Raising Additional Funds For Low Income Energy Assistance,” Final Report, Dr. Deborah Cutchin, Cutchin and Associates, Karen Brown, Energy Strategies and Solutions and George Coling, National Fuel Funds Network, April 19, 2004. This Issue Brief reports on examples of fuel funds working together with state-administered LIHEAP and state-funded energy assistance programs, including public service benefit programs. The objective is to provide states and other interested parties with models for developing effective partnerships with fuel funds and public benefit programs to increase funds available for low-income energy assistance.
For a copy of the EOC report, and for other materials on fuel funds fundraising, contact the Clearinghouse.