Nevada to Reduce Energy Assistance for Needy

Source:

"Demand has outpaced available funds in NV's energy-assistance program"

Associated Press, Sandra Chereb

State officials Tuesday said that demand has outpaced available funds in the state's energy assistance program and anticipated cuts in federal funding could leave thousands of Nevadans without aid.

About 1,700 applications pending from the fiscal year that ended June 30 will be denied but reconsidered for 2012 under stricter eligibility guidelines.

Officials also said deep cuts in federal support and growing demand means less money to help the needy.

In 2009, the program provided assistance to 21,900 Nevada households. That number rose to 27,500 in 2010 and 32,600 in 2011.

Last year, the average household benefit was $860. That is expected to drop to $500 in the current year.

The program is also supported by a universal energy charge paid by utility customers. In 2011, the fee brought in $8.8 million and is expected to generate a similar amount in 2012.

"Everybody pays into the universal energy charge," said Miki Allard, a staff specialist at the Division of Welfare. "Those funds are pretty constant."

But the agency is bracing for big reductions in federal funds, and officials fear the money available will not be sufficient to provide assistance to all who qualify.

Nevada received $15.8 million from the federal government in 2011, a $3.2 million drop from the year before, the division said. The proposed federal budget would cut an additional $12 million, reducing the overall program budget by roughly half, from $24.6 million to $12.7 million.

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