Federal, state and local governments should view the latest heat waves as a wake-up call to develop a long-term strategy to help low-income families adapt to rising temperatures.
Treat cooling the same way we treat heating
Extreme heat is just as dangerous as extreme cold. But today, in many states, landlords are only required to provide tenants with heat — not cooling.
These are antiquated rules that need to be updated to reflect rising temperatures.
About 7 million low- and moderate-income households (making less than $40,000) don’t use air conditioning equipment, likely because they cannot afford it. That’s why states should require landlords to provide tenants with cooling.
Put utility shut-off provisions in place during the summer
These are, at best, Band-Aid solutions. States need stronger shut-off protections during the summer that would apply to the entire season.
Provide additional funding
And given rising electricity prices, we at the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association project that the cost of home energy this summer will increase to about $540, up from $450 last summer.
In addition, more funding should be provided to the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides formula grants to states to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. Right now, about 85% of the program’s funding is used by states to help families pay their heating bills. More funding would enable it to provide more robust cooling assistance and equipment as well.
Rising temperatures are killing people. Helping low-income families adapt to a hotter world and get the relief they need should be a key component of the nation’s climate adaptation strategy.