Meeting Winter Heating Bills for Needy Families:

How Should the Federal Program Work?

HRD-79-12: Published: Apr 26, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1979.

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To alleviate the burden of high heating costs on low-income households during severe winter emergencies, Congress has appropriated $200 million a year for 1977, 1978, and 1979. The program, administered by the Community Services Administration and carried out by the states, paid utility bills and other energy-related costs for the needy. Under the Special Crisis Intervention Program, funds were distributed to the states based on the severity of the winter, the number of poverty households, the number of elderly in the households, and the regional fuel cost.

Controls over eligibility and the distribution of funds have not been managed well and there has been no assurance that families in the greatest need are served first. The program needs to be strengthened if assistance is to be effective.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should not consider the transfer of future programs providing emergency energy assistance to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's general program of emergency assistance for needy families, proposed by the President, until identified problems with that program are resolved and the Community Services Administration's program is proven.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director, Community Services Administration, should consider this report when developing and implementing future emergency energy assistance programs. When future appropriations are authorized by Congress, the Director should: (1) define the types of energy emergencies which should be met with program funds; (2) develop criteria for state and local programs to use in directing funds to those in the greatest need; (3) require states to make sure that local projects apply the criteria; (4) limit future expenditures to costs incurred during winter emergencies; (5) establish specific procedures for the regions to follow in overseeing and supplementing state monitoring efforts; and (6) provide guidance for uniform review and approval of all state plans and programs.

    Agency Affected:


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