Heat-Up St. Louis Shores Up Its Utility Efforts With $330,000 In Grants Charity Unveils New Membership Drive and Other Preventive Initiatives
November 19, 2010 –St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay joined St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley; St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson; Melanie DiLeo, Chair of Heat-Up St. Louis; and Reverend Earl E. Nance, Jr., Chair Emeritus of Heat-Up St. Louis to unveil plans to help off-set a federal and state budget shortfall in utility assistance.
The plans were unveiled during the all-volunteer, regional utility assistance, and advocacy, charity’s press conference in St. Louis City Hall, in an effort to keep area needy households safe and warm during the 2010-11 winter heating season.
The plans include offering, for the first time, Heat-Up St. Louis annual memberships in seven donation categories, ranging from $60 to $5,000 for individuals and corporations; ongoing dialogue with the Missouri Public Service Commission and utilities in an effort to make it much easier to avoid disconnection during the winter heating season; holding conservation and educational workshops. In addition to the help hotline (314-241-7668), the working poor can now go on-line (www.heatupstlouis.org) to obtain guidance and assistance.
By way, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has taken an Adopt-A-Family membership, which allows three (3) needy households, each to qualify for a $300 heating grant.
The 10 year-old, non-utility charity covering 17 Missouri and Illinois counties, including the City of St. Louis, in partnership with the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition will be asking individuals, for the first time this winter, to “Check On Your Neighbors”. Finally, Heat-Up St. Louis will embark on a strong series of health and safety public service campaigns.
On Friday, $330,000 was presented to Heat-up St. Louis to help with regional energy efforts. The City of St. Louis provided a shot-in-the arm with a $280,000 heating grant, and Ameren Missouri presented a special energy efficiency, emergency assistance and public education grant for $50,000. The City’s funding source is the Equitable Relief From the Utility Tax Fund.
“Heat-Up St. Louis is a chance for us to make sure that some of the more vulnerable members of our community are warm and safe this winter season,” said Mayor Slay. “The City is proud to partner with Heat-Up St. Louis – and I’m excited to start off this campaign with $280,000 that will go, in its entirety, to people who need help with heating bills this winter.”
LIHEAP, the federally funded energy assistance program is anticipating a significant reduction in President Obama’s budget and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s administration has yet to make a firm commitment to funding the Missouri Utilicare program. In recent years, the national home heating program was funded and approved by Congress at a level of $5.2 billion versus the current proposed $3.2 billion.
In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently refused the unemployment extension of four (4) million Americans, and some people could go from the extended unemployment rolls straight to the homeless rolls.
Heat-Up St. Louis’ honorary vice chair, Charlie Dooley, the St. Louis County Executive, confessed that government can’t always fund the high demand of utility assistance, but he went on to say that, “Our County residents have taken a leadership role in making the largest public donations than any other part of the region, it is also, all about people helping people to avoid health and safety issues.”
If the federal funding level remains as proposed, the St. Louis metropolitan area, (Missouri and Illinois) will receive approximately $137 million less in utility assistance; that would be about $43.8 million and $94.8 million less, respectively in Missouri and Illinois.
Heat-Up St. Louis also announced that it is in a series of productive and positive ongoing meetings with the Missouri Public Service Commission, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Laclede Gas, Ameren Missouri, the Office of Public Counsel and other interested parties to strengthen the area’s utility assistance safety net. This was done in part due to fears of some needy households using unsafe method of heating their homes, and anticipating the availability of energy assistance funds will be in short supply this winter.
The charity also believes that public education and additional utility funding helps with homeless prevention. “The St. Louis region may be facing an insurmountable challenge,” said the Reverend Earl E. Nance, Jr., chairman of grant allocations for Heat-Up St. Louis. “At a time when so many people are scratching the bottoms of their pockets looking for rent or mortgage money, they still are often forced in a life and death decision of heating and eating.”
Heat-Up St. Louis officials, along with St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson, pointed out that winter months have the highest incidents of home and apartment fires, often due to use of unsafe heating method in homes. Jenkerson also dialogued with the Missouri Public Service Commission making sure that the regulatory agency and the area local utilities laser focused on safety issues, especially this winter where funds are limited so far, and may be depleted before the winter of 2011 is actually over.
“It’s imperative that we never stop offering people alternatives to using space heaters as their primary heating sources,” said Chief Jenkerson, co-chair of the health and safety committee of Heat-Up St. Louis. “Unsafe space heaters are the primary causes of house fires, especially when they are near combustibles.”
Founder of Heat-Up St Louis, Gentry Trotter pointed out that Jenkerson and his involvement in an informal Missouri heating committee led by the MPSC will result in greater benefits for the Missouri utility consumer. So far:
The Missouri Public Service Commission is reviewing a recent tariff filing by Laclede Gas, who wholeheartedly volunteered to cooperate with interested parties in trying to ensure that as many needy customers as possible are helped this winter, despite the Cold Weather Rule.
The tariff filing will permit certain customers (i.e. those with household incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level) who would otherwise have to pay 80% of their arrearages to retain or restore their utility service to only have to pay 50%. The remaining 30% would be paid out of the $150,000 that is being reallocated from Laclede’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Program.
Heat-Up St. Louis is hoping at some point that additional dollars are funded by Laclede as that program is quickly depleted.
A proposal by various interested parties, who worked with the MPSC, will offer an emergency repair program allowing customers who need modest repairs to their furnaces to obtain financial help of up to $500 to complete the work, in order to continue receiving utility services. This is contingent on approval by the Department of Natural Resources.
Heat-up St. Louis points out that damaged or broken furnaces can automatically cause Laclede to disconnect the service in the middle of winter. Furthermore, the charity sees time and again, people using unsafe methods of heating homes, often due to the households’ inabilities to pay for repairs; thus these efforts support the safety and health infrastructure within our region.
Several needy clients were available to the media to discuss how they were recently helped by Heat-Up St. Louis and that they probably would need assistance again this coming winter. Clients who wish to qualify for energy assistance are required to provide proof-of-income, and a photo I.D. Heat-Up St. Louis, which offers help to the City of St. Louis as well as roughly 17 Missouri and Illinois counties, aids qualified seniors, disabled, and low-income people based on income and health issues.
Heat-Up St. Louis works with individuals who have been disconnected (or are in danger of being disconnected) from their utility services. In the City, heating grants will be limited to $350; with the potential of another $250 for emergencies in an effort to stretch dollars, and in other areas of the region, grants will be limited to $250. Previously, the City’s household grant ceiling has been $600 for a one-time supplementary heat grant.
“If consumers don’t inform the utility companies of their inability to pay, as well as seek energy assistance, they will be assured of a shut-off,” Melanie DiLeo, Chairwoman, Board of Directors for Heat-Up St. Louis, pointed out. “It’s not only unsafe to be without a home heating source during the chilly fall and cold winter; it’s also dangerous to your health.”
Heat-Up St. Louis also stressed the importance of all Missouri residents to take full advantage of the Cold Weather Rule, which prohibits shut-offs of utility service when the temperature is forecasted to drop below 32 degrees. The “Rule” gives consumers a chance to make monthly budget arrangements and customers should notify the utility of their inability to pay. In Illinois, one can negotiate with their heating vendor in most cases.
Since its inception, the charity, which partners with 14 major agencies, has impacted the lives of more than 225,000 needy people. This has been done through public education, heating grants, and referrals through the resource hotline at 314-241-7668. And HUSTL has accepted more than $4 million in donations.
In addition to the new membership program being offered, and special fundraisers like “Rams Boot Out Old Man Winter” and “Hardee’s Rise and Shine for Heat,” larger donations may be sent to www.heatupstlouis.org or through UMB Bank at Heat-Up St. Louis, Inc., c/o UMB Bank, P.O. Box 868, St. Louis, MO 63188.
The membership categories include: $60 – Friends; $125 – Good Neighbor; $250 – Ambassador of Need; $500 – A Good Samaritan; $1,000 – Adopt-A-Family, $2,500 – Plus Gold Individual/Corporate and $5,000 Lifetime Individual/Sponsorship Corporate.