February 21, 2023
Our neighbors are struggling this winter to afford their basic needs. At United Way, we’re seeing a growing need that is widespread. We are seeing families who are being forced to make difficult financial decisions that affect their health and their personal needs. And we’re seeing families who need extra support to supplement their budgets to meet these basic needs.
We see families who are struggling with the decision to put food on their table or heat their homes. Some of our most vulnerable neighbors have medical issues and they worry about being able to afford their medications and then whether they’ll be able to refrigerate those medications. School-age children and youth need internet accessibility for online education. Something so simple as being able to use the microwave has become a luxury to some. We are seeing layers upon layers of different needs and complications that households are facing. Some of this is due to wage loss from two years ago. We’re still seeing the compound effects of COVID. Simply put, our neighbors are struggling financially and even emotionally and mentally. We are viewing this issue and re-committing ourselves to powering homes. We do this by taking a look at what it really means to empower our neighbors to live healthy and thriving lives.
We should be concerned. We are seeing an increased population who simply can’t afford their utility bills, among other bills that have been impacted by inflation. And we’re seeing people reach out who have never reached out before. United Way, along with our partners, are here to help.
United Way of Central Indiana offers a Winter Assistance Fund, which is a program that helps ensure hardworking families who need energy assistance the most can afford the increased costs of utility bills during the coldest winter months. The program runs through May and is targeted to help Indianapolis residents who struggle to afford increased utility costs but do not qualify for the government’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.
In 2022, the 2-1-1 referral line received more than 8,000 calls for energy assistance. Last year, we were able to help a little over 100 families over a course of six months. This year, we are already exceeding that number. Our hope is to help 600 families by the end of this season. With AES Indiana’s help and help from our community partners, we’ll be able to do that.
Our partners are vital in spreading the word about our Winter Assistance Fund. Programs like Utilities Unite, where AES Indiana and Citizens Energy Group are coming together to help promote the resources available to customers, are so important. It’s also important that our community knows that our utility servicers care and have a heart for the community. They are incredible partners and are helping us strategize on how we can best reach our neighbors. We know that we can’t have an impact without collaborating and coming together in an intentional and meaningful way.
The power of unity is much stronger than the destruction of division. It's important that we realize that we must center ourselves around the common reality that energy justice may look different and have different implications depending on a particular community. We must also unify toward problem solving; we all have strengths and skill sets that we can leverage to make sure that we are meeting the need of our neighbors, especially our BIPOC and most vulnerable communities. Our call to action is to do something about it. And I believe that the best way we can do that is to come together to be problem solvers with our community and not solely for the community.
We are facing difficult times and we cannot predict when it gets easier. We know that there are people in our community who are facing difficulties who have never faced these challenges before. For those people – and anyone who may be struggling right now – we want you to know that UWCI and our utility partners like AES Indiana are here to help. Reach out: www.uwci.org/WAF.