Debt ceiling countdown
Last week at my other tax blog: Miss. tax holiday; Tax pro registration redux

Heat wave strains utility assistance programs, charities

My mom's timing isn't very good. Her first summer in Central Texas is one of the hottest on record.

Tourists sit in the midday heat outside the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, July 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT)

Since May, when temperatures here started climbing, she's fretted about the constant running of her air conditioner, worrying each month what fiscal shock might await in her upcoming electric bill.

Her concern has been justified. And she's not alone.

A lot of folks with fixed or limited incomes have tough choices to make in extreme weather conditions. And the economy is not helping.

No help for the help: The federal Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, was created to help people pay their heating and cooling bills.

But Congress has eliminated millions of dollars in potential aid, forcing the states that funnel the help to their residents to drastically scale back or completely cancel their programs that help poorer residents pay their electric bills.

That means assistance falls to charities. But they're not doing much better.

A lot of them are in the same predicament as One Door, a Springfield, Mo., nonprofit that provides utility assistance.

Last month, the group had 670 requests for aid and that drained its coffers. Making matters worse, three churches used to partner with the group, but now it only has one supporting its efforts.

Individual donations have fallen, too, as more people this year sent their charitable dollars to nearby Joplin for its recovery from the major tornado that hit that city in May.

Support local utility assistance programs: Your locale probably has similar assistance programs, both through local utilities and charities, to help folks who can't afford to pay their cooling bills.

Utilities typically establish their customer assistance programs as separate nonprofit funds. In most cases, you can simply add a few dollars to your electric bill and have the excess go to the designated account to help needy customers.

Or if you plan to itemize deductions and claim your gift, you can send a separate check so you'll have the IRS-required proof of your donation.

Also check with your church, favorite community group or the local branches of Goodwill and Salvation Army. Many run weather-related programs.

Here in Austin, the NBC affiliate teams up with Family Eldercare to provide low-income seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children with fans and window AC units.

In addition to accepting donations of fans, the group gladly takes monetary contributions to help it provide aid to more sweltering folks.

If you can help out, please do. Not only will you get a possible charitable tax deduction, but your gift will help warm your heart.

And that's a good feeling, even in triple-digit temperatures.

Related posts:

Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Check out the buttons -- Tweet, Reblog, Like, Digg This and more -- at the bottom of this post. Or you can use the Share This icon to spread the word via email and other popular online avenues. Thanks!


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.