National energy assistance program that aids local families celebrates 40th birthday

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August 16, 2021

Chase Taiseni and his girlfriend visited a Maui Economic Opportunity housing/energy assistance outreach event in Kihei earlier this year.

Chase had lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and came to the event looking for help with utility bills. He had received a payment reminder.

At the outreach event, Chase learned that he qualified for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) annual credit and the monthly LIHEAP Energy Crisis Intervention.

LIHEAP was signed into law on Aug. 13, 1981, and celebrated its 40-year birthday on Friday, Aug. 13.

Chase and his girlfriend, who had a toddler son together, also received rental assistance through Catholic Charities’ Maui Emergency Rental Assistance program, which took care of their back rent and payments through October.

On the day he visited the outreach event, Chase had a job interview. It turns out he got the job and is working again.

Things are looking up for Chase and his family. He is grateful and feels blessed to have been able to receive help through MEO.

The nonprofit agency administers LIHEAP services that provide eligible households help with their natural gas and electric bills.

If residents have received a disconnection notice or past due payment reminder letter, MEO can assist them through emergency Energy Crisis Intervention. This service is offered year round, and MEO can serve 15 households a month. So far this year, 155 households (365 individuals) have received a total of $100,612 in assistance.

MEO began tracking youth, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) demographics in April. Since then, the nonprofit agency has served 50 households who receive SNAP benefits, three of whom also received TANF; 27 households with children; and 70 households, whose income was impacted by the pandemic.

Energy Credit is the other LIHEAP service administered by MEO. Eligible applicants receive a line of credit from the utility that can last six months or longer. The amount of assistance is based on a needs scale determined by the state. Applicants for the program only are accepted in June. This year, MEO was able to assist 957 households – 1,686 individuals in total, including 194 on Molokai and 35 on Lanai.

LIHEAP currently helps nearly 6 million families across the nation with their energy bills annually. Fans of the program were celebrating all day Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

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