Two years ago, New York City provided tens of thousands of air conditioning units to low-income seniors. But Philadelphia city officials said the city could not afford such a project.
Last year, a nonprofit company in Hunting Park started a GoFundMe to buy air conditioners for vulnerable neighbors.
The first phase of a new building improvement project by the Philadelphia Energy Authority has installed or plans to install a dozen heat pumps, electricity and heating and air conditioning. .
Next, there is a national government program called the Low Income Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. National experts say most of the money goes toward paying families’ winter heating bills — but some states, like Delaware, use it for summer heating bills. to air conditioners.
Pennsylvania started a pilot program with that fund this summer to provide or repair air conditioners, but only for households that received LIHEAP or weather assistance in the previous year. So far the pilot has provided or repaired more than 100 units of heating across the state, said Penny Ickes, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED).
But Steve Luxton, executive director of the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA), one of two local agencies that distributes this funding to Philly, said it has been slow to receive additional funding from the state to manage the the cool pilot – and the organization couldn’t. to provide A/C unit as well. Another agency, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, hopes to include 100 units in eligible housing, spokeswoman Jamila Davis said.
City officials have urged the state to expand energy assistance programs like LIHEAP to cover cooling, city spokeswoman Imani Harris said in an emailed statement. He said the city is encouraged by President Joe Biden’s announcement of guidance for states using LIHEAP funds, which emphasize options such as purchasing efficient air-conditioning units and heat pumps, setting up a peer review system or maintaining timely anti-closure services. summer months.
The government program has an unprecedented level of funding this year, due to COVID relief and structural legislation. But experts say the project has no funding in advance.
Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, which represents state officials who distribute LIHEAP funds, said moving forward, the program will need several billion dollars more annually for cooling aid.
“The numbers are too high for GoFundMe,” he said. “It’s too much for love. It’s a government problem, the government needs to help pay for this.
Historically, Pennsylvania has not used funding through another state program, the Weatherization Assistance Program, to install A/C units, but to replace heat pumps, DCED’s Ickes said. But the government is seeking approval to use some of this money to install air conditioning in homes as a “health and safety” measure – for example, in homes with elderly members, children , people with disabilities and medical conditions.
East Germantown resident Felicia Ashley doesn’t know of any other resources for free gas, other than the aid group that reached out to her. He thinks there should be more.
“Because there are a lot of seniors here who can’t afford A/C,” he said. “There are a lot of seniors here, and patients like me, with bills and rent.”
This summer many residents like Ashley appealed to Funds Y’all for air conditioning – and organizers are struggling to raise enough money.
They have stopped taking new applications for now and say it could take months to transfer everyone off their list.