By Lesley Quick
Vice President of Customer Technology, Advocacy, Regulatory and Business Support
Vice President of Federal Government Affairs
For many families, it can be hard to know where to turn when costs rise for essential services like energy and groceries.
The number of U.S. households requesting energy assistance this winter is at its highest level in more than a decade. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported in January that the number of households receiving energy assistance this winter season rose an estimated 1.3 million, from 4.9 million to 6.2 million, the largest one-year increase since 2009 and the highest total rate of applications since 2011.
That’s why Duke Energy has been pairing longstanding programs with creative, new approaches to assist our customers and communities in need.
In addition to ongoing energy efficiency programs and flexible payment options, we continue to advocate for funding the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) This year’s LIHEAP Action Day is February 16, and Duke Energy employees will be spending the day canvasing Capitol Hill to engage with members of Congress and staffers to reinforce just how powerful these funds can be in the lives of our customers.
In 2022 alone, more than $192 million helped nearly 189,000 Duke Energy electric customers across our service territories.
As remarkable as that is, there’s more work to be done as many customers who could use these funds aren’t getting them. The National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition notes only 16% of those customers eligible for LIHEAP funding nationwide actually receive it. There are barriers that prevent eligible customers from tapping into this valuable resource through the assistance agencies that distribute it. Some agencies reported having more applications to process in the month LIHEAP opened than in all of the previous year, and many of these customers lack reliable internet access to research or submit an application.
We are working with community partners to overcome these barriers. The Duke Energy team has entirely revamped our assistance program in the last three years to more effectively distribute LIHEAP funds intended for eligible customers. We’ve created a team dedicated to working with more than 1,400 community assistance agencies to improve the success rate for dispersing these important dollars. A new online portal allows assistance agencies and local partners faster access to the information they need when a customer requests help. These and other actions resulted in those agencies distributing more than $40 million more to our customers in 2022 than 2021.
We give our employees, customers and shareholders the opportunity to contribute to low-income energy assistance programs that we manage, and our Duke Energy Foundation is active in supporting basic needs like addressing food insecurity, transportation costs, medical assistance and housing.
We’re proud to stand with our customers and assistance agencies to provide flexible options to help customers meet their growing energy needs.
Learn more about the team of Duke Energy employees helping unlock dollars for eligible customer bill assistance.