FUMO, EVANS, RENDELL RENEW AID FOR GAS HOME HEATING
PHILADELPHIA, December 6, 2007 – For the second straight year, Philadelphia natural gas customers whose service was terminated can be reconnected, through a continuing $500,000 state grant program created by state Senator Vince Fumo, state Rep. Dwight Evans (both D-Philadelphia) and Governor Edward G. Rendell.
The assistance will be accessible starting tomorrow.
Last winter, more than 1,500 homes had service restored through the program, which is funded by state money and managed through the cooperative efforts of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) and the Neighborhood Energy Centers.
“People must have home heating in the cold-weather months, regardless of their personal financial situation,” Fumo said. “Help is available to those whose household budget is under stress, and I urge them to take advantage of it.”
The initiative includes an outreach effort, led by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN,) to identify PGW customers who are without service and make them aware of the available aid.
“We cannot in good conscience allow our poorest and our most vulnerable citizens to suffer through a cold winter simply because they cannot afford to pay their gas bill. Our job as elected officials is to find solutions to peoples’ problems and offer them a hand up when possible. I am pleased to partner with Senator Fumo and Governor Rendell in this effort to keep Philadelphians safe and warm,” Evans said.
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 that the $123 reconnection fee is an impediment to regaining their service, as is the rising cost of home winter heating bills.
To address the problem, Fumo and Evans last year each provided $150,000 in grant money available to their caucuses. The governor committed another $200,000.
There are 13 Neighborhood Energy Centers – non-profit groups that focus on the energy needs of low and moderate income people in Philadelphia. PGW works with the NECs to structure the funding program to direct the grant money to people who need help.
“I am pleased that Governor Rendell, Senator Fumo, and Representative Evans have offered such immediate and meaningful assistance to our most vulnerable customers again this year,” 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.”
“Again this year, many low-income families are struggling to make ends meet due to rising energy costs,” Governor Rendell said. “Helping customers who are in arrears to restore their utility service will ensure that no family is forced to endure a winter without heat.”
In some parts of Philadelphia, the poverty level combined with the age and energy inefficiency of its housing stock, create an especially difficult challenge in the PGW service area.
While recognizing the need to solve the immediate wintertime problem for at-risk families, Fumo and Evans are also encouraging other steps such as increased weatherization to lessen the impact of lower temperatures on household budgets. They are working during the current legislative session on a variety of energy-related proposals offered by Rendell earlier this year.
“The Governor’s energy initiative will provide an opportunity to allocate even more funding for weatherization and other conservation and energy-efficiency measures,” Fumo said. “The plan that we hope to pass will further alleviate an ongoing wintertime problem for many of our city residents.”
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