FUMO, EVANS, RENDELL TO PROVIDE HELP WITH HOME HEATING BILLS
PHILADELPHIA, December 26, 2006 – Philadelphia natural gas customers whose service was terminated would be reconnected, through a $500,000 state grant program announced today by state Senator Vince Fumo, state Rep. Dwight Evans (both D-Philadelphia) and Governor Rendell.
“With the cold-weather season upon us, it is critical that we restore home heating for people who have lost it,” Fumo said. “We have to make sure they know that help is available.”
Fumo and Evans, who are the Democratic Appropriations Committee chairmen in their respective legislative chambers, are each providing $150,000 in grant money. The governor committed another $200,000.
“I am pleased to partner with Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Vince Fumo in securing this $500,000 appropriation for the Neighborhood Energy Centers in Philadelphia,” Evans stated. “NECs are vital to ensuring that Philadelphians have access to stop-gap funding in crisis situations; together with long-term solutions such as weatherization and conservation techniques, we must work together to ensure that these measures provide a winter safety net beneath our citizens that does not fray.”
From April until the beginning of December, when Philadelphia Gas Works is permitted to shut off service for non-payment, some low and moderate income people lose service to their homes because they struggle with their bills. When the winter heating season arrives, they find the $123 reconnection fee an impediment to regaining their service, as is the rising cost of home winter heating bills.
The bulk of the $500,000 grant money would go toward reconnecting those customers, and helping them maintain service through the cold-weather months. A smaller amount would also be used by the Neighborhood Energy Centers for more aggressive outreach efforts in the community to counsel strained energy customers on obtaining assistance. Some money would also help the NECs and their Energy Coordinating Agency with administrative costs.
“I am pleased that Governor Rendell, Senator Fumo, and Representative Evans have offered such immediate and meaningful assistance to our most vulnerable customers,” said Steven Hershey, Vice President Regulatory and External Affairs, PGW. “We look forward to working together on an ongoing basis to ensure that people are safe and warm in their homes.”
There are 13 Neighborhood Energy Centers – non-profit organizations that focus on the energy needs of low and moderate income people in Philadelphia. PGW will work with the NECs to structure the funding program to direct the grant money to people who need help.
“High energy costs have caused a tremendous hardship for many low-income families,” Governor Edward G. Rendell said. “By helping customers in arrears to take steps to restore their utility service, we can help to ensure that no family is placed at risk of harm by using a supplemental heating source, or is simply left to struggle and shiver in the cold.”
Fumo pointed out that the level of poverty in some parts of Philadelphia, along with the age and energy inefficiency of its housing stock, create an especially difficult challenge in the PGW service area.
“We have to address the short-term problem right now for our at-risk families as we approach the dead of winter,” Fumo said, “and in the future we must also look for long-term solutions, such as weatherization and other steps, to mitigate the impact of what I expect will be an ever more expensive energy market.”
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