Month: March 2021

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) extended through April 15th

Community Action Agencies across Kentucky have extended the enrollment period for the Crisis Component of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Applications for the Crisis Component will now be accepted through April 15, 2021, or until designated funds are depleted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Qualified residents should apply at their local Community Action Agency. To locate your local office, please call 800-456-3452. 

To utilize the Crisis Component, applicants must have a household income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, as well as have received a “disconnect” notice from their utility company or be within four days of running out of a non-metered fuel such as propane. Additionally, this year applicants can also apply if they have a late or overdue amount or if they are on an arrearage payment plan.

The applicant must be responsible for home heating costs or pay heating costs as an undesignated portion of rent. Crisis applicants who participate in a Pre-Pay Electric Program would be eligible if they are within 10 days of running out of pre-paid electric services.

For everyone’s safety, Community Action Agencies may provide special accommodations, adjust locations and times, and may ask that LIHEAP applicants follow safety protocols. Because these may change and vary between counties, applicants are encouraged to contact their local Community Action office for more information.

Kentucky’s Community Action Agencies administer LIHEAP in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a pass-through block grant from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. More information about LIHEAP, including contact information for county-specific office contact information, can be found at the Community Action Kentucky website at

The last mile

Though the concept of serving “the last mile” is often spoken in the relatively new challenge of delivering high-speed internet to rural Kentucky, electric cooperatives have embraced “the last mile” for generations, and to this day.

Not-for-profit electric co-ops are led by, belong to and were built by the very people they serve, the people on the last mile. Conversely, for-profit utilities generally serve more densely populated areas, an average of 32 customers per mile of electric line. Though co-ops serve an average of only eight consumer-members per mile of electric line, through responsible practices, careful planning and expert management, they provide safe and reliable service to the last mile at competitive rates.

Value and values

The strength and resiliency of electric cooperatives can be traced to proactive maintenance and infrastructure investments. That’s where the value of your co-op’s service is found—in the electric grid.

“It’s a system that’s become so reliable, it’s understandable some people take it for granted,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. A resilient grid utilizes different types of generation—such as coal, natural gas, solar and hydro—to seamlessly work together to provide safe, reliable and affordable power to the last mile of Kentucky co-op members. Yet Perry warns that political forces aiming to dismantle that diverse energy mix “threaten to sacrifice the on-demand reliability and affordability of co-op electric service. Kentuckians deserve a robust discussion before drastic changes are made that could impact future reliability and affordability.”

Kentucky’s electric co-op system is designed and built to withstand high winds, powerful storms, cybersecurity threats and other disruptions. When major outages do occur, such as after February’s ice storm, co-ops work together to help restore power. Your local co-op, local co-op board and local employees respond to needs in your local area, uniquely suited to understand your local community.

The cooperative way

The 26 electric cooperatives in Kentucky serve more than 1.5 million co-op members in 117 counties. Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is the statewide association that publishes Kentucky Living. Co-ops share information and practical advice, pooling their resources to encourage innovation and high standards in safety training, disaster response, communications, technical knowledge, economic development and advocacy.

“We advocate for all co-op members,” Perry says. “Yes, to the last mile.”

COVID-19 Relief Passed by Congress Helps Co-op Members

Congress has approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that could help struggling electric cooperative consumer-members pay their electric bills.

The American Rescue Plan Act provides an additional $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The money, available through September 2022, helps pay for home heating and cooling for low-income households, including elderly and disabled people and families with young children.

NRECA, along with six other energy-related associations, sent a letter to congressional leaders on Feb. 4 urging them to increase LIHEAP funding by $10 billion.

The relief package also allocates $21.5 billion in additional funding for emergency rental assistance, which helps people pay their rent and utility bills, including both past due and future payments. Funds will be available through September 2027.

Homeowners hit hard by the pandemic will be eligible for assistance as part of a new, nearly $10 billion program to help them pay their mortgage, utility and internet bills. The money will be dispersed by states and local governments through September 2025.

“This package provides some much-needed relief to co-op consumer-members who have suffered job losses and other economic devastation caused by the pandemic,” said Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations.

The Senate passed the legislation Saturday, and the House approved it Wednesday. President Joe Biden, who made COVID-19 relief the first legislative priority of his administration, signed the bill into law Thursday.

In addition to helping people pay their electric bills, the legislation includes potential broadband funding opportunities, gives more money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and expands support for small businesses.

The bill includes $340 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds to state and local governments, which have the option to use the money for broadband deployment if they choose. It also establishes a $7.2 billion emergency connectivity fund at the Federal Communications Commission that aims to close the homework gap by providing funds to eligible schools and libraries to pay for up to 100% of internet service, Wi-Fi hotspots and equipment costs.

The legislation also provides $25 billion in grants to restaurants devastated by the pandemic. The businesses can use the money to pay their electric and internet bills, along with other eligible expenses.

Co-ops battered by storms, fires and other disasters could benefit from an additional $50 billion in the bill for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. 

Congress also expanded eligibility for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program to most nonprofits, affirming guidance from the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration on electric co-op eligibility. The program is designed to help small businesses keep their workers employed during the pandemic. They can also use the money to pay their utility bills.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.

House Bill 320 approved: opens broadband to co-ops

In a significant win for the electric cooperative program in Kentucky, the General Assembly approved legislation Tuesday that allows regulated electric cooperatives to add broadband service, and earmarks $250 million in federal funding to encourage broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. The bill now goes to Governor Andy Beshear for his signature or veto.
Supported by a grassroots campaign of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, House Bill 320 does not include any changes to existing pole attachment regulations that would have led to electric rate increases. Instead, the bill requires the Public Service Commission to promulgate updated pole attachment regulations by the end of the year.

After the Kentucky Senate unanimously approved the bill late Tuesday afternoon, the House followed hours later.

The bill sets aside $250 million from Kentucky’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package, but only $50 million of the funds will be allocated before April, 2022.

Republican Senate Pro Tem David Givens said lawmakers were “planting the seed” and could make more decisions about funding in the future.

“Let’s get people doing it right before we start overfunding or funding in ways that cause potential mischief or poor investments,” Givens said.

Co-ops urge lawmakers to vote NO on ‘pole tax’

To protect co-op consumer-members, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are urging lawmakers to vote down any attempts to tack broadband costs onto the electric bills of local ratepayers.

Some for-profit telecommunications companies are behind an effort to pass along the “pole attachment” costs of broadband expansion to electric cooperatives. This cost shift would trigger rate increases by the not-for-profit cooperatives. Despite co-ops explaining this net effect of pole attachment charges, telecom companies are pushing forward with this plan anyway.

“Legislators need to hear from you and other local electric ratepayers that these multi-billion dollar for-profit companies who are already receiving hundreds of millions of tax dollars to expand broadband service, should not pad the pockets of their shareholders by adding these extra costs to your power bill,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

  • FACT: If broadband providers succeed in passing along these unrelated broadband costs to electric bills, all ratepayers will see higher electric bills, not just the ones who might gain broadband service.
  • FACT: For years, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives have worked to accommodate the needs of telecommunications providers, allowing access to the cooperative pole network and relieving telecoms from the burden of having to build their own systems.
  • FACT: Kentucky’s electric cooperatives have engaged in good-faith discussions with broadband providers and the Public Service Commission to review and modernize pole attachment regulations with the shared goal of speeding up broadband expansion while preserving the safety and reliability of both the public and line workers.
  • FACT: If an electric utility pole is sufficient to provide electric service, but enhancements to the pole are necessary to accommodate an additional attachment (such as broadband), those “make ready” costs are the obligation of the broadband company, not a local cooperative.

“Broadband companies must not be allowed to hide the cost of doing business in the electric bills of rural Kentuckians,” Perry said. “Co-ops are owned by the people we serve, we are working to protect your interests, and we need your help, so lawmakers understand this issue is important to you.”

Click here to tell your legislator “STOP Hidden Fees by Voting NO on Pole Attachments in Kentucky.”

Rural Kentucky pins broadband hopes on House Bill 320

Rural Kentucky’s long and frustrating wait for high-speed internet broadband service may soon get an historic boost.

With an overwhelming and bipartisan 91-4 vote on Wednesday, the Kentucky House approved legislation that allocates $250 million for broadband expansion and allows electric cooperatives to add broadband service.

“Those of us from the rural areas of this state have waited and waited and we’ve become impatient,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade (R-Stanford). “And it’s time to do something. The funds are here. The need is evident. So, let’s strike while the iron is hot.”

Sponsored by Rep. Brandon Reed (R-Hodgenville) and Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Elkton), House Bill 320 now heads to the Kentucky Senate, where it has the backing of rural advocates such as the Kentucky Farm Bureau and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

Introducing the bill on the House floor, Reed explained “it moves broadband forward in the Commonwealth of Kentucky with significant investment,” and “will clear the way for rural electric cooperatives to feasibly provide broadband service in unserved and underserved households and businesses through an affiliate.”

Though electric cooperatives did not spearhead the legislation, co-op leaders said they welcome and appreciate the confidence and trust legislators place in co-ops’ ability to serve the last mile.

“On the whole, areas served by regulated electric cooperatives in Kentucky are underserved by current broadband providers,” said Chris Perry president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops. “Because our co-op members need and deserve access to reliable high-speed broadband service, co-ops are encouraged that House Bill 320 breaks down unnecessary restrictions on who is allowed to provide broadband service and identifies crucial funding to make rural broadband service a reality.”

As the bill was introduced on Wednesday, an amendment offered by Meade boosted funding from $100 million to $250 million.

“Some of our areas have three to four homes per mile, and those areas will never be enticing to those large communication companies to service,” Meade said. “We’ve seen that year after year as we have been up here passing legislation to deregulate telecom companies and to establish avenues for additional money to entice them to expand to that last mile. And when I say ‘last mile,’ I mean to that last house on that small county back road in rural areas.

“We have seen that everything we have done has not been able to accomplish this ultimate goal. But with this bill, we are making a giant leap towards that goal. With this bill, we are saying to rural Kentucky, we know your need, we have heard you, and we care for you.”

The legislation would permit a local electric co-op to assess the practicality of offering broadband service through a subsidiary. Currently, 19 of Kentucky’s 24 local distribution cooperatives are not permitted to provide broadband service to their members. Yet four electric cooperatives in Kentucky are among hundreds nationally already successfully engaged in broadband expansion. House Bill 320 would put all co-ops on equal footing regarding broadband service.

House Bill 320 does not mandate that an electric cooperative provide broadband service. Instead, each co-op would determine whether entering the broadband business could be accomplished without jeopardizing the co-op’s primary objective of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to its members.

“Throughout every discussion, co-ops have insisted that any broadband expansion should not result in electric cooperative members paying more on their current electric bill,” Perry said. “This principle holds true with House Bill 320 which co-ops support as written and strongly oppose any amendments to this legislation that would pass the costs of broadband expansion onto the electric bills of local Kentuckians.”

As senators prepare to consider the bill, it’s being sent with a passionate call for action.

“We have 32,000 children in the state of Kentucky without internet,” said Rep. Phillip Pratt (R-Georgetown), “We have counties everywhere that do not have internet. This is a move forward to get this to the unserved and underserved areas of Kentucky. I would encourage everyone to be a Yes vote because this is sorely needed without a doubt.”