Cool Down for Warmth Event – Feb. 1&2

On February 1 & 2 there will be an event in Newark, New Jersey called “Cool Down for Warmth”. The purpose is to raise funds so families can stay warm this winter. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the cause.

A little history. In December, 1992 I wished there was a place to refer families to when no other energy assistance resources were available. Little did I know, it would lead to the creation of New Jersey SHARES, our statewide energy fund – which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Today, I need your help to keep my dream alive and to help New Jersey families stay warm. On February 1 & 2 New Jersey SHARES will be holding “Cool Down for Warmth” to both raise funds and to make our mission better known in our state of New Jersey.

We’re building an Ice House – yes, an ICE HOUSE – in Newark to highlight the critical importance of heat during the cold winter months.

You can help by making a donation. Your donation makes a difference and may be eligible to be matched dollar for dollar by your utility company. So if you can give $50, it can have the impact of $100.

Donate now. Go to my Ice House Challenge fundraising page. If you want more information then read my personal story.

You can follow Cool Down for Warmth on the NJ SHARES website or on Twitter, #CoolDown4WarmthNJ or @njshares on Facebook.

Thanks for your help.

New Jersey SHARES Launches New Facebook Page

Today New Jersey SHARES, our statewide nonprofit energy fund sent out their monthly newsletter. The lead article announced the launching of their Facebook page. If you want to receive timely information about our statewide energy fund, get news about energy assistance, or related social service resources just add NJ SHARES to your Facebook community. Their article reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the NJ SHARES Facebook Page has officially launched. Please “Like” us on Facebook and consider sharing with your network.

“Like” Us:
It’s easy to “Like” the New Jersey SHARES, Inc. page. First, log into your own Facebook page. Next, click on this link http://www.facebook.com/njshares OR manually type that address into your own web browser, and you will be transported to our page. Underneath our cover photo and next to our name, you will see an icon that says “Like” with a thumbs-up graphic. Simply “Like” the page by clicking on that icon.

Share with Network
Once you have “Liked” New Jersey SHARES, Inc.’s page, consider sharing the page with your friends and other networks. Visit New Jersey SHARES, Inc.’s Facebook page – underneath our cover photo, next to the icon that says “Like,” there should be another icon that looks like a wheel or gear. Click that icon, and a drop down menu will appear. Next, click on “Share.” which is listed underneath “Create a Page.”

Other articles in their newsletter covered the following: “Find Out If You Qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit”, “Tax Credit Available for New Jersey’s Working Families”, “Poverty Presents Risks for Children in Newark” and a spotlight on HOPES Community Action Partnership.

To subscribe to NJ SHARES newsletter, Sharing Neighborhoods, please visit http://www.njshares.org/aboutNJShares/newsletter.asp.

LIHEAP Action Day – February 9, 2011

Today is LIHEAP Action Day. Join with others to press Congress for at least $5.1 billion in federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Fiscal Year 2012. For a list of local energy assistance organizations and fuel funds visit NJ Community Resources list of energy organizations. You may also wish to make a contribution to New Jersey’s fuel fund – New Jersey SHARES. See their website for details.

A Bad Storm Forming For Energy Consumers

The large ranks of New Jersey’s unemployed face a difficult winter based on the programs currently available to assist energy consumers. In recent years Washington and Trenton responded to what has been called the Great Recession. However, this winter the response has been less than expected. New Jersey has a number of programs to help meet the energy needs of low income customers and the thousands out of work. These programs – LIHEAP in particular – face a difficult year.

LIHEAP stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program which is 100% federally funded. Last year it was funded at $5.1 billion. Under the current Congressional Continuing Resolution – scheduled to run out December 3 – LIHEAP is funded at $3.3 billion. As a result, New Jersey policymakers have taken the following actions:
1) Reduced eligibility guidelines from 225% of the Federal Poverty Index to 200%. This will result in tens of thousands households not eligible this year, even if they have the same household income as last year.
2) LIHEAP benefits in New Jersey have been reduced 20% across-the-board.
3) Emergency benefits – including those heating by oil – will be reduced to $450. This is not even enough to order a 200 gallon minimum delivery.
4) Funds intended for non-LIHEAP eligible families via New Jersey SHARES, originally expected last July are still being held up.

Heating oil prices are currently 36 cents higher than a year ago according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Heating Oil and Propane Update website. A recent price of residential heating oil in New Jersey was $3.18 a gallon, according to the executive director of the New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association.

In terms of weather forecasts, the Farmer’s Almanac predicts the eastern third of the United States will face colder than normal winter temperatures. While I don’t regularly buy a copy of the Almanac or have a vested interest in it, you can read about their long range winter forecast.

Households who are above the LIHEAP income guidelines may be able to get help from the statewide nonprofit New Jersey SHARES, assuming they receive long awaited funding. A bill, S3064 , signed into law in January, 2010 was to provide $25 million to New Jersey SHARES beginning in July, 2010. The funding has been held up due to political and administrative delays, even though many families have their utilities shut-off or uncertain where they will find money to pay for fuel. The Board of Public Utilities currently is holding the purse strings and recently issued an announcement about future funding. You can read their recent press release .

If you are above the LIHEAP income guidelines but hope to get help from New Jersey SHARES, you should first contact your utility company and request to be placed in a protected category under the Winter Termination Program rules. If unsuccessful, contact the Board of Public Utility’s Division of Customer Assistance at 800-624-0241.

Households that are applying for LIHEAP benefits – or inquiring about the status of their LIHEAP and/or USF application – should contact the LIHEAP Hotline at 800-510-3102. The Hotline is well staffed and able to handle calls Monday through Saturday from 8am to 5pm. It is suggested calls be made to this call center rather than to the local application agency.

For more information on energy assistance programs visit the New Jersey Community Resources’ NJ energy page.