Running Out of Gas

by  Assistant Editor

Cuts to the budgets of state and local governments are slicing into the pockets of the relocatees from public housing. Public housing residents are not the only population affected by the budget cuts, of course. Activists and advocates for the poor are arguing that these cuts are taking and will take a big bite out of the pocket books of the working poor and middle-income residents as well.

Recent reports indicate that the Low-Income Energy Home Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may get $300 million less than last year, if the Bush Administration gets its way. For decades, LIHEAP has helped many elderly and low-income residents by paying their gas and electric bills. Advocates are up in arms about the possibility of thousands of low-income people being affected by this cut.

At the end of last year, many advocacy groups held mass protests concerning rapid increases in gas bills that were disproportionately affecting the elderly and the poor. Members from groups such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were hauled off to jail while demonstrating in front of Peoples Energy.

The Rev. Jessie Jackson Sr. held a news conference at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters about this very issue. Jackson and others have described the gas bills situation as a “national crisis.” Already, current and former public housing residents are complaining about their high gas and electric bills.

One former resident of public housing said, “How does the government expect for us to survive off of peanuts? All I’m receiving is food stamps. If it wasn’t for this housing choice voucher, I couldn’t afford a roof over my head,” this former resident said.

“Now I’m receiving these harsh gas bills.” Waving a $950 gas bill in my face, she said, “I simply don’t have the money to pay this bill. If I don’t stay current with my utility bills, I will lose my housing. This is not fair. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.”

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