Recently, the Obama government has sanctioned relief funds for people affected by the super storm Sandy as part of its LIHEAP or Low income Home Energy Assistance Program. According to the reports, around 284,000 homes have been affected in the catastrophe. The total financial loss estimated so far amounts to $88 billion. As a result, various federal agencies have promptly declared financial assistances to the hurricane victims. These disaster relief funds will be given to the victims who belong to low income groups and do not have the necessary means to cope up with the home repair expenses. Take for instance, New York regarded as one of the worst hit by the hurricane is going to receive as much as $339 million under the said home energy program.
LIHEAP – Its salient features
Similar disaster relief funds have already been approved under LIHEAP for all the states lying in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Hence, low-income people who want to take advantage of this financial help should be aware of the fundamentals of LIHEAP before they set out to reach for it:
Weatherization – Sen. Charles Schumer of (D-NY) said that through these loans Hurricane affected people can weatherize their homes besides paying for the food bills comfortably. Ideally, LIHEAP recipients are expected to spend the loan money to heat up their homes during the bitterly cold season. However, there are some relaxations in the rules in the event of any kind of emergencies.
Thus, people can use their relief funds to buy essentials like woolen garments, generators and pay up for the rentals of machineries in order to generate heat and electricity. Moreover, cash grants like LIHEAP will provide people the financial capacity to undertake urgent repair work in case of broken heating equipments, poor fuel supply, absence of utility services and so on.
Applications – People who qualify for the LIHEAP should at once send in their applications to the Department of Public Affairs. This is because the government-approved agency has been sending postcards to past years LIHEAP beneficiaries. This has been done to notify existing beneficiaries regarding LIHEAP who made an online application. Earlier, it was a norm to send only paper applications to people for LIHEAP renewal purpose, regardless of their online applications a year ago.
In the new postcards there are pre-registration numbers for past online LIHEAP applicants. Previous year data of all the program beneficiaries will be filled in the new application form. As a result, people will only have to cross-check every data mentioned in there and update any of them, in case of any sort of alteration like change of residential address.
Through, initiatives like these the Department of Public Welfare expects to cover up all the LIHEAP aspirants within a short span of time. This is because the new online application forms can be processed by the county offices straightaway. This will speed up the application approval process and reduce human errors.
Home energy forecasts
According to the US Energy and Information Association’s report, named “Short-term Energy and Winter Fuels” (released on 10th October, 2012), average household energy consumption may grow up in excess of 15% this year as opposed to the year ago. Moreover, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said on its ‘Eye On Housing’ blog that people who owned most recently developed properties are the ones who saved considerable amount of money every month. The fact is these homes have been built on better insulation standards that helped in to lower heating bills.
Apart from incurring greater savings, people should also remember that fuel costs are always rising since prices of heating oil and natural gas are expected to increase by more than 2% and 1% respectively every year. However, rates of electricity may drop by 2 % and that of propane may drop by 4% by the end of 2012.
Hence, people who are about to apply for the LIHEAP in order to finance their home building efforts should use their funds wisely by planning everything beforehand since they have limited financial resources to put at stake.
“Save Energy, Save Dollars”
In an attempt to lower costs and save money, people rebuilding their homes from scratch should consider the following:
Better insulated air ducts – Hurricane victims planning to have forced-air heating systems installed in their new homes should seal and insulate the air ducts. This will improve energy efficiency and comfort. While those who want to put up hot water heating systems must get wrapping pipes in order to sustain the heat for an extended period of time.
Reduced home air infiltration – It is very good to work with the professionals while air sealing the homes. This is because these professionals use technical equipments in order to do their job.
Better insulated homes – This is one of the most important things to consider while building a new home or renovating an existing one. People may get their houses well-insulated by using various kinds of insulators like insulation fabrics, blown-in insulators, etc. It is good to consult with professionals while making any such decisions.
Efforts like these will help in to rehabilitate displaced Hurricane Sandy affected people faster and in cognizance of the climate change issues greatly endorsed by President Barack Obama.
Therefore, people may apply for the energy efficient mortgage loans given out by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its PATH (Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing) program. These HUD insured loans have been developed so as to encourage people to build energy efficient homes that are both eco-friendly and money saver.