Louisville officials say the federal government shutdown has affected the city’s application process for a critical program that helps low-income residents pay for their energy bills.
“We hear story after story from other years, if it weren’t for this they might not be able to pay for their medicine, or [it determines] what type of food they’re able to have in the household, just basic needs,” says Debbie Belt, with Louisville’s Department of Community Services and Revitalization.
This is the first direct effect of the federal shutdown that Louisville has seen, confirms Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer.
Louisville’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program known as LIHEAP usually processes around 3,000 applications from elderly and disabled people during the pre-registration phase in October, says Belt.
But the government shutdown has now forced the city to suspend registration indefinitely.
Louisville’s LIHEAP program is provided by funding funneled through Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which receives its grant funding from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Belt says the delay has forced a majority of the small LIHEAP staff to be furloughed, but says the real impact is on those who use the program.
“They’re low income individuals and they’re the households that are struggling to make ends meet. So this program, these types of programs, are often what help them stretch those dollars,” she says.
Louisville was hoping energy bill subsidies could begin in mid-November, but Belt says now that start date has been delayed. She adds it’s unclear when subsidies for LIHEAP users will begin.
The LIHEAP subsidy phase typically serves around 11,000 low-income residents each year, she says.
Gov. Steve Beshear will address the impact of the federal shutdown on Kentucky at 2pm this afternoon. WFPL will bring you coverage of that story later.