In many parts of the nation, this has been an exceptionally cold winter. Even here, in what is supposed to be sunny Southern California, the sun seems to have gone the way of Conan's NBC contract. It has been rainy and windy and very cold (by L.A. standards, you understand!).
To help low income families pay their heating bills, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just released $490 million in emergency funding to states to be used for energy assistance.
The money is in addition to the basic funding (LIHEAP -- or, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) that all states get automatically. In fact, the government released $2.6 billion back in October and another $1.2 billion just last week.
In a news release posted on its Web site today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was quoted as saying, "During these tight economic times, states and communities across the country have seen increased demand on key services, such as energy assistance for low-income families. And the record cold snap in places that traditionally don't see weather as cold as it has been this year has put even more pressure on families in these states."
The emergency funding, says Sebelius,should help families better afford to heat their homes. Renters , by the way, may also apply.
Click on this link to see what is available in your neck of the woods.
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle."