9967343473?profile=RESIZE_710xWhen we think of assistance with heating bills, most of us imagine rural homeowners in New England needing help with paying for enough fuel oil to last the long winter months. But a recent headline in the East Bay Times read: “Falling temperatures bring a big chill to the area.” And some of us may have noticed frost on the windows of our parked cars.

There is help for Contra Costa citizens to stay warm and comfortable in the winter and to avoid heat-related illnesses and even death in the hot summer days. Here are two national programs that offer help locally.

The Health and Human Services Department’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, provides life-saving assistance to people who cannot pay their heating bills in the winter and cooling bills during the ever-increasing hot summer days. Many program participants are threatened with the cutoff of their gas-electric utilities. The federal-funded LIHEAP also provides energy upgrades and weatherization services that reduce energy use, increase indoor air quality, and positively impact residents’ health and overall well-being. For example, after weatherization improvements, children's emergency room visits for asthma attacks decrease markedly. Parents have less stress and can spend more on healthy food instead of cheap food with little nutritional value. The LIHEAP program is celebrating 40 years of service this year. Click for information about services in California.

The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, is another national program focused exclusively on making low-income housing more efficient, affordable, healthier, and more comfortable. In California, you are automatically eligible to receive weatherization assistance if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Your annual income (before taxes) must be below 60% of the average state wage. For a household of four people, the upper-income limit is just over $56,000. Go here for more information, including an easy way to see eligibility and the contact information you need to apply.

Two local organizations that you may already be familiar with can also assist in paying power bills.

BayREN, supported by local governments, helps with more longtime goals of making homes more efficient, healthy, comfortable, and affordable. Among the help you can get from BayREN is access to a selected list of local contractors who can provide information on how to improve your home’s “performance,” provide quotes for making energy-efficiency improvements, and provide information on rebates and tax credits that can help lower the costs of making these improvements.

And finally, PG&E offers help for the elderly, those with disabilities, and low-income families. And as the summers get hotter and hotter, the elderly, in particular, are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death. They help by providing consistent and reliable power for those who need medical devices to survive.

Those of us at Sustainable Contra Costa believe that everyone deserves to live in a healthy, efficient, affordable, and comfortable home. If you or someone you know is struggling to stay healthy and comfortable at home, please have them check out these programs for help. And join the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge to find things you can do to stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and reduce your carbon footprint. 


Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

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