ENERGY is the largest drain on low income households. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), there are two groups most affected by energy costs: Low-income households which often include older adults. Compared to the national average of 3.1%, low-income households spend 8.1% of their total income on energy, while seniors spend 4.2%.
Housing type and location can also affect energy costs. For instance, low income households living in older multi-family buildings of 5-plus units can have an energy burden that is as high as 81% over the national average. The energy burden also differs by region, such as the South Central United States, where over one third of available housing is affected.
Currently, Kansas and Missroui are dealing with extreme winter weather patterns. While Kansas and Missouri were not direct subjects of the ACEEE report, both states are listed as ‘Stagnating Developmentally’’ in the 2021 United States Sustainable Development Report, with rankings in the lower half of all states at #28 and #36 respectively.
So, what can we do to help reduce energy burdens?
There is much to be done to improve our use of energy and provide relief to those who are affected by ‘energy burden’. The first step is to understand what ‘energy burden and energy equity’ means and how to combat its effects. Then look at ways to engage others.
Start by talking to your church leaders to address energy equity in their sermons. Talk to your children about how income levels affect the lives of kids with whom they go to school. Help provide classes through your church, neighborhood associations or community organizations to teach interested individuals on how to weatherize their home or apartment. Talk to various charities to see how you can help. If you can handle a hammer and nails, volunteer to repair homes of seniors or single moms. Learn how to weatherize a house or apartment and then volunteer to provide the muscle to any of the various charities in the region who will gladly connect you with someone in need. You may have family members that need assistance. An important part in this battle is offering a helping hand where and when needed.
Become familiar with the following groups that help with home weatherization. You can print this list and post it at work, church, school, or anywhere that seems appropriate.
Habitat for Humanity: Best known for building affordable homes and offering affordable home furnishings through Habitat ReStores. This nonprofit also has a Home Preservation program to help homeowners with home repairs like painting, weatherization and more. Phone: (816) 924-1096 | [email protected] https://www.habitat.org/volunteer/near-you/find-your-local-habitat
Rebuilding Together: “a safe and healthy home for every person.” It is a nationwide network of affiliates and partners consisting of corporate and individual donors, tradespersons and volunteers. For the Kansas City area: RTKC, 2050 Plumbers Way, #150, Liberty, MO 64068 (816)-781-8985 | https://www.rebuildingtogetherkc.org/
Coalition for Home Repair: Coalition for Home Repair provides funding for the preservation and expansion of safe, healthy, affordable and sustainable housing by supporting home repair networks nationwide. For the Kansas City area: 6323 Manchester Ave. Kansas City, MO 64133, (816) 358-6868 | https://caagkc.org
The HomeDepot Foundation: Opened in 2011, the foundation is dedicated to improving the homes and lives of the U.S. Veterans and those impacted by natural disasters by offering grants of up to $500,000 to designated nonprofit organizations. It is a nationwide program. (800) 466-3337 | https://corporate.homedepot.com/page/home-depot-foundation
City of Kansas City Missouri, Housing and Community Development: The city offers several programs to assist with home repairs and is contingent on income. Housing and Community Development; City Hall, 414 E. 12th St., Kansas City, MO 64106. Tenant Advocate: Nicole Woods (816) 513-3046 | [email protected] https://www.kcmo.gov/city-hall/housing
Missouri Weatherization Assistance Programs: For Seniors 60+. Home heating is a high-cost basic necessity. For people with low incomes, the decision to pay the utility bill may mean deciding between being warm in the winter or having well-balanced meals. Other low-income people live in older homes that may not have insulation or efficient heating systems. Missouri Program Contact: 1-(573)-751-2254 | Weatherization Service Providers Govt. website: https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1864
Kansas Weatherization Assistance Program: For Seniors 60+. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provides grants to states, territories, and some Indian tribes to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families. These governments, in turn, contract with local governments and nonprofit agencies to provide weatherization services to those in need using the latest technologies for home energy upgrades. Kansas Program Contact: 1-800-752-4422 | Info: KS Weatherization Assistance Govt. website: https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1855
KHRC’s Weatherization Assistance Program: Provides energy audits and improved efficiency measures at no charge to income-eligible Kansas households. 611 S Kansas Ave. Suite 300, Topeka, KS 66603 (785) 217-2001 | https://kshousingcorp.org/homeowners/weatherization-assistance/
Housing and Urban Development: The website offers numerous resources for weatherization help. It is a bit daunting to find exactly what is needed but the site is packed with information of homeowners and renters alike. Kansas: https://www.hud.gov/states/kansas/homeownership/energy
Please visit the following resources for more information:
- Kristina Zagame: “Free, Sustainable Home Repair Resources for Low-Income Households,” EcoWatch Online, Accessed 28 Nov 2022. https://www.ecowatch.com/low-income-home-repair-resources.html
- ACEEE Report. “Low Income Households, Communities Of Color Face High Energy Burden Going into Recession,” 10 Sept.2020. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Online, Accessed 11/18/2022. https://www.aceee.org/press-release/2020/09/report-low-income-households-communities-color-face-high-energy-burden
- United States Sustainable Development Report 2021, Nov 16, accessed online 28 Nov 2022. https://www.sdgindex.org/reports/united-states-sustainable-development-report-2021/
I recommend the online publication, EcoWatch, https://www.ecowatch.com “. . . a long-time leader in environmental news.” You will find science-based information on climate, energy, policy making, renewables, and culture. It is a great resource to stay in touch with what is happening in the battle against global warming.