KUNM

Advocate Says State Energy Assistance Falls Short

Jul 6, 2018

 

People around New Mexico have been blasting their swamp coolers for weeks. And folks with low incomes can apply through a statewide program for help with an energy bill.

But is the program reaching enough people?

 

The state receives millions from the feds every year to help locals cover electricity or gas for a month. This year the state and a handful of pueblos were granted a total of $19 million.

 

Ona Porter leads a nonprofit called Prosperity Works. She says the program, known as LIHEAP, isn’t helping as many people as it should, because the fund isn’t anywhere near big enough.

 

"LIHEAP probably touches fewer than 20 percent of the people who are in need and a way smaller portion of their bills than they need," Porter says.

 

Last year 21,000 New Mexicans got help covering a month of heating or cooling costs. But people can only receive this help once every fiscal year.

 

People can apply for the program at the New Mexico Human Services Department.

 

HSD did not return a request for comment about the program before publishing time.

 

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KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the Con Alma Health Foundation.