EBR Energy Handouts Destined to Fail in Helping Low Income Families

East Baton Rouge Parish officials are ready to dole out a new round of funding for the LIHEAP program. LIHEAP “provides utility payments to energy vendors on behalf of eligible East Baton Rouge Parish residents.  Utility payments are made once in a twelve month period on a non-emergency basis, contingent upon the availability of funds. Eligible individuals must meet guidelines and/or receive Food Stamps, Medicaid, SSI, or receive a Veteran’s or Survivor’s Pension.” The program is run across the country via dollars provided by the Department of Health and Human Services and is funded to the tune of $3.35 billion. 

A little benevolence from our local government never hurt anyone, right? Sadly, that is not the case. Wasteful federal programs such as LIHEAP are often poorly managed and fraught with fraud. A 2010 report by the GAO that looked at only nine states found some startling examples:
  • 11,000 deceased individuals were used as applicants or household members for LIHEAP Benefits
  • Over 1,000 federal employees were found whose income exceeded the maximum income threshold
  • Ohio provided $400 in LIHEAP assistance to an applicant who was using the identity of someone who had been in jail for more over two years.
  • Illinois provided $840 in energy assistance a US Post Office Employee who fraudulently reported zero income to qualify for the LIHEAP. Despite earning about $80,000 per year, the employee stated that she saw “long lines” of individuals applying for LIHEAP benefits and wanted the “free money.”

 Not found in the GAO report is the fact that programs like LIHEAP increase low income families’ dependence on government by providing mere temporary assistance and fail to address the root causes associated with poverty. Poor performing public schools in East Baton Rouge parish along with a breakdown of the family in many low income neighborhoods have left would-be LIHEAP applicants poorly equipped to manage money and provide for their families. With the vast majority of Baton Rouge public high schools attaining only a “D” letter grade it’s no wonder that students leave high school ill-prepared to tackle life in the real world and therefore have to rely on assistance.

 

 

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