Entergy Arkansas employees and nonprofit group representatives are among advocates from across the country participating in the National Fuel Funds Network's Washington Action Day for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program on Aug. 2. Entergy Arkansas workers are there as part of their ongoing commitment to help low-income customers. LIHEAP is America's primary tool to help pay energy costs for the elderly, the disabled and working-poor families with young children.
Current budget proposals call for cutting LIHEAP funding in half, from the current $5.1 billion to $2.5 billion.
"LIHEAP is such an important program for our friends and neighbors who are truly in need," said Jamie Stringfellow, customer service manager, Entergy Arkansas, Inc. "We understand Congress must address deficit spending, but our elected leaders also must understand the growing need for assistance being seen by our community partners."
Hundreds of Arkansas residents ignored 100 degree heat and long lines to stand in the mid-July sun for hours in the hope of getting some help to pay utility bills through LIHEAP.
More than 400,000 people were added to the official poverty rolls between 2008 and 2009 in the four states served by Entergy utilities. In addition, pressure on the working poor continues to grow with the cost of energy, food and gasoline rising faster than wages.
"This is not the time to cut the safety net for people struggling to survive," said Nora Mendez, a former LIHEAP recipient. "LIHEAP offers a lifeline to people who, like me, find themselves falling from a comfortable middle class life into the first financial crisis of their life."
"If LIHEAP funding is roughly cut in half as proposed, it will translate into funding cuts of some two-thirds or more for states like Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and as much as three-fourths for Texas," Stringfellow added. "The cuts are disproportionate for a region with the nation's highest poverty rate. It's a combined loss of $250 million for the four states."
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to 697,000 customers in 63 counties.