Programs Help Low-Income Households Pay Energy Bills

Programs Subsidize Energy Bills, Provide Free Weatherization Services to Make Homes Efficient

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With energy costs at an all-time high and rising, some Berkeley residents can gain much-needed assistance from two programs that help low-income residents to pay their energy bills.

The programs, which are administered by Berkeley's Housing Department, subsidize household energy bills and provide free weatherization services to help make homes more energy-efficient.

As part of the weatherization program, city workers analyze individual houses and recommend ways to make them more energy-efficient in order to lower energy bills. City employees then make the recommended improvements, such as installing fluorescent lighting, insulation, low-flow shower heads and ceiling fans.

Families that meet certain low-income requirements can qualify for the programs, which is funded primarily by the federal government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance program.

Crystal Novak, program manager of Community Energy Services Corporation, a non-profit group that helps the city of Berkeley implement the weatherization program, said many of the program participants are very grateful for the assistance.

"It's great to see (their reactions), especially when they're blown away by the help," she said.

The weatherization program targets the elderly and the disabled, who have a harder time making home improvements by themselves, said Shirley Brown, energy weatherization manager for Spectrum Community Services, Inc., the non-profit organization that runs the program for most of Alameda County.

She said that many administrators of low-income household energy programs are concerned about how rising energy costs will affect the number of people who will be aided by these programs.

"I have no idea (what will happen)," she said. "Everybody knows the economy is bad, you just have to cope with the funds you have."

Bobbie Larkins, coordinator for the weatherization program in Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, said that despite increasing energy costs, she remains optimistic. The program aided 1,035 households in her region last year, and she said she expects to come close to serving the same number this year.

"My guess is the number will still be over 1,000," she said.


Contact Nick Moore at [email protected]

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