OEF Launches New Energy Retrofit Program for Local Nonprofits

OEF Launches New Energy Retrofit Program for Local Nonprofits

Since the 30th anniversary of Oregon Energy Fund in 2019, we’ve been exploring new possibilities to expand our impact in the community. We know that energy assistance is just one way to assist struggling Oregonians. Now, we’re thrilled to announce the culmination of that process: a brand-new project that will provide full energy retrofits to Oregon nonprofits.

This program, the Nonprofit Energy Retrofit Collaboration (NERC), is a collaborative effort between OEF and the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC). Together, OEF and NAMC will team up with a local nonprofit that provides housing or shelter for their clients, weatherizing their properties and upgrading them to energy efficient standards.

NERC will be funded entirely by corporate sponsorship, allowing us to develop new ways of helping our neighbors while still allowing our legacy energy assistance program to operate at full capacity.

Our first nonprofit partner will be Albertina Kerr, which serves low-income people with disabilities throughout Clackamas, Marion, Multnomah, and Washington Counties. Kerr’s facilities include 54 group homes for youth and adults, which house more than 500 people with a variety of physical and mental health challenges and are unable to work or live independently.

Many of these buildings are older, however, and would benefit from construction upgrades that Kerr cannot afford on its own. As such, OEF and NAMC will perform the updates, helping Kerr lower its energy costs and increasing the overall health and quality of life for its group home residents.

While construction will vary from building to building, some upgrades will include sealing cracks and leaks, replacing insulation, repairing or replacing roofs, updating water heaters and HVAC systems, and replacing older appliances with new, more efficient models.

Retrofits like these provide an array of benefits. They reduce energy costs and lower overall emissions. They improve the health of the building’s residents by improving indoor air quality and stabilizing the home’s temperature – a crucial point as Oregon experiences increasingly extreme temperatures and weather events. Finally, they provide a sustainable solution to energy insecurity, allowing residents to enjoy the comforts and health benefits of household energy for years to come.

We’re delighted to expand our programming in this way, and look forward to assisting nonprofits across the state in the coming years. And you can help us continue assisting our neighbors in need by donating to our energy assistance program today.

2021: The Year in Review

2021: The Year in Review

Dear friends,

Back in August, I had the opportunity to meet Nancy, a low-income senior who lives in Salem and had received energy assistance for several years. Nancy told me something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. When she received her stimulus check in January, she wanted to use it to give back to the community. She decided to donate to Oregon Energy Fund in thanks for the help she’d received over the years.

Nancy’s story is remarkable. It’s also a beautiful example of the ways our community has supported us – and each other – through this time of crisis. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged into a second year and thousands of Oregonians struggled to afford the costs of light and heat, you helped us raise over $1.60 million and keep the power on for more than 3,800 people. We expanded our funding to help low-income students and rural Oregon communities pay their bills, and kept our program operational through the summer so our neighbors could stay cool during June’s deadly heat wave.

This would be a triumph at any time. But I’m deeply humbled to see this level of compassion and humanity from our donors in such a difficult year. When lost work, illness, and extreme weather roiled the lives of vulnerable Oregonians, your support ensured they could count on a warm, healthy, and stable home, empowering them to lead the lives everyone deserves.

Our work is far from finished; many of our neighbors still face the difficult math of keeping the lights on or putting food on the table. But as we prepare to launch a slew of new programs next year to help them recover, I’m inspired by the unwavering support you’ve shown us and our mission to power lives. On behalf of OEF and all those we serve, thank you for helping us build a brighter future. See you in 2022.

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

OEF Expands Year of the Student Programming

OEF Expands Year of the Student Programming

The COVID-19 years have been hard for everyone. But few have felt the pinch as acutely as students, who have needed to take classes from home in the midst of a global crisis. To make matters worse, many college students and families with children experience major financial hardship and struggle to pay for basic expenses like food and utilities, making it difficult to focus on learning and succeed in school. No one can read or do homework in a cold, dark house!

Last year, Oregon Energy Fund launched the Year of the Student, a dedicated effort to help low-income students pay their bills. Our first program provided a monthly energy assistance stipend to the families of students at KairosPDX, a K-5 charter school. We’re delighted to announce this program has been renewed for a second year thanks to a $10,000 grant from our partner CareOregon, allowing us to create a productive home environment for even more students.

We also established two new programs to help older students pay their expenses. The first, a partnership with Portland State University, will create an on-campus energy assistance fund for PSU students facing financial hardship – the first of its kind in the nation. We’ve also partnered with Get Schooled, a digital counseling service that prepares high schoolers for college and the job world. By reaching low-income students through texts and online tools, we can connect them directly with necessary resources like energy assistance.

We’re proud to address this overlooked need and look forward to adding more programs soon. Support our work today with a donation to Oregon Energy Fund.

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

Voices of Oregon Energy Fund

Voices of Oregon Energy Fund

“Tim and his wife Joni needed to make more than 10 trips to the doctor last month for surgery and other medical issues. It’s an hour-long drive from their home in the country, and all the extra gas was a major expense that caused them to fall behind on their other bills, like energy.

Oregon Energy Fund helped them catch up so they could pay the bills, keep their home warm, and get healthy.”

 

 

“On my budget, everything is significant, and when COVID hit, we had extra expenses. Without energy assistance, it would’ve been a much, much harder journey. I just have that little bit of extra money each month…that’s able to go to things like food, family essentials, and health care.

What OEF is doing huge. I’m extremely grateful for what I’ve received from you.”

– Nancy, OEF client and donor

 

“As the Program Coordinator for my agency’s energy assistance program, I get to witness firsthand the impact that a gift to OEF has on a family.

From a single mom working full-time who lost childcare due to COVID-19, to an elderly couple who had increased medical and safety costs on their fixed income, I see the hardworking people who have impossible choices to make, that none of us should ever have to consider.

I hear firsthand the crack in their voice when we are able to ease the burden someone has been carrying. That’s one reason I do the hard work that we do. I get to help people who really need it.”

– Jess, OEF Board Member & Community Action employee

 

“Luanne, Beth, and James live in a low-income community in eastern Oregon. When their landlord failed to keep up with maintenance, the building’s HUD subsidy was revoked, driving up the rent and utility costs.

After years of not needing assistance, the three seniors found themselves unable to keep up with their bills. They reached out for help, and Oregon Energy Fund was able to help all three of them (and several others) pay off their energy costs while they looked for a more affordable home.”

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

Deadly Heat Wave Shows Importance of Summer Energy Assistance

Deadly Heat Wave Shows Importance of Summer Energy Assistance

Is it just us, or can Oregon not catch a break?

Just a few months after the Valentine’s Day storm left western Oregon covered in ice, a record-breaking heat dome descended at the end of June. We all know what happened next: multiple days spent above 100 degrees and hundreds of people dead across the Pacific Northwest.

Sadly, most Oregonians died alone and at home. Many didn’t have air conditioning installed, or their unit was broken, leaving them with no protection against the brutal heat.

But even if A/C were installed, we can surmise that some may have been reluctant to use it. A/C can be a lifesaving resource, but it’s also prohibitively expensive.

We know from surveys that many low-income households try and push through extreme weather events rather than drive up their bills by turning on the A/C or the heat in winter.

Oregon has enjoyed mild weather for much of its modern history. But as climate change accelerates and events like this become more common, it’s critical that our neighbors have the support they need. As detailed in our summer newsletter, OEF has expanded to a year-round program to provide energy assistance during the summer. The heat dome is a tragic example of just how necessary this is.

No one should be forced to leave the A/C off during a heat wave. As we prepare for more extreme weather, please help us ensure no one loses their life because they can’t afford to keep themselves safe.

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

Click here to find energy assistance in your area

Oregon Energy Fund Dramatically Expands Funding to Rural Oregon

Oregon Energy Fund Dramatically Expands Funding to Rural Oregon

From the high desert to the snow-capped Wallowas, eastern and southern Oregon are famous for their stunning landscapes. What fewer people know is that this region is also home to huge numbers of energy burdened families – and very few resources to help them.

So we’re proud to announce that, in the last two years, Oregon Energy Fund has undertaken a major expansion of its energy assistance program in rural Oregon. In some areas, we’ve increased our funding by a factor of five, creating a meaningful impact of our neighbors east of the Cascades.

Rural Oregonians experience some of the highest energy burdens in the state. Nearly half of all families in Wheeler County struggled to pay their bills in 2020, with many spending more than 10% of their income on energy. Malheur and Klamath experienced similar hardship.

Raising funds to help these families has been a challenge. These counties have small populations and low levels of donors, and many people live far from anywhere they can apply for help.

In 2019, OEF decided to pour additional resources into addressing this problem. We received generous grants from the Wildhorse Foundation and an anonymous donor, and worked to make our funds more accessible.

These initiatives helped us provide energy assistance to 194 households and 483 individuals across 11 counties – a major increase from years past.

Our program was particularly effective in Baker, Lake, Morrow, and Union Counties, which received almost no funds in the previous year. In some cases, we were able to completely pay off a family’s outstanding utility balance, clearing them of debt and allowing them to devote their remaining finances to other basic needs.

We’d be proud of this success at any time. But energy assistance has been especially crucial in the last two years, as temperatures rose, wildfires grew more extreme, and COVID-19 severely affected the ability to pay for basic costs like energy.

The support we received from foundations and individuals like you allowed us to meet this heightened need and ensure rural families stayed safe through these unprecedented events.

Thank you for your generosity, and please join us as we continue to support our neighbors in need.

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

In Her Own Words: Billi

In Her Own Words: Billi

Billi stands with her husband and three songs on an outdoor patioBilli is a member of OEF’s Board of Directors and works as an Administrative Services Manager at West Oregon Electric Co-op. Here’s why she loves Oregon Energy Fund: 

“With experience working in customer service for an electric utility, I can easily say Oregon Energy Fund’s mission holds a special place in my heart. As a customer service worker in the utility industry, you hear from customers often that they must choose between paying for electricity or putting food on the table. For me, the best part of working this position was connecting my customers with organizations like Oregon Energy Fund to help them through the hard times and keep the lights on. I am honored to be a part of Oregon Energy Fund and will continue to support their mission any way I can.”  

Thank you, Billi! Please join her in supporting OEF’s mission of helping Oregonians in financial crisis pay their energy bills.  

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

OEF Raises Over $30,000 To Help Launch 2021 Summer Funding

OEF Raises Over $30,000 To Help Launch 2021 Summer Funding

As the days grow hotter and the need for cooling grows, we’re thrilled to announce that Oregon Energy Fund has raised over $30,000 to help expand our energy assistance program into the summer. This expansion has been funded by generous grants from the Oregon Community Foundation and the U.S. Bank Foundation, as well as donations from individuals like you. Thank you for your support!

Like most energy assistance programs, OEF is most active during the winter, with only leftover funds saved for the warm months. Given Oregon’s historically mild summers, this model worked for years. But as climate change has grown more severe, our summers have grown hotter and drier. Heat kills more Americans annually than any other natural disaster, and Oregonians are increasingly at risk.

The good news? Heat illness can be easily prevented with A/C. However, the cost of running A/C is unaffordable for many low-income families, forcing them to choose between utility debt and “sweltering in place.” The ability to cool our homes is particularly urgent as wildfires grow worse and hazardous air quality can keep us trapped inside for days.

We’ve heard from our own community about these challenges. More and more people have turned to us for help with their energy bills during heat waves, with only limited funding available. And few other programs provide assistance in the summer, leaving those in need with few options.

So we decided to act. With the help of OCF, US Bank, and donors like you, we’ve begun the process of expanding Oregon Energy Fund’s program so assistance is available all year long. Summer services will begin in the Portland and Medford areas this summer, and will eventually expand along the I-5 corridor and across the state.

We’re pleased to be able to offer this critical expansion of our program, and this is only the beginning. Please join me in donating to OEF today so we can continue to respond to this growing need — and ensure our neighbors can keep their homes and loved ones healthy and cool.

Donate To Oregon Energy Fund

Click here to find energy assistance in your area

Oregon Utilities Offer COVID-19 Debt Relief Programs for Customers

Oregon Utilities Offer COVID-19 Debt Relief Programs for Customers

Do you or someone you know need help paying your bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Your utility may be able to help! 

Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural, Avista, Cascade Natural Gas, and Idaho Power have all announced debt relief plans for Oregon customers affected by COVID-19, including matching funds for payments, one-time grants, and extended payment plans. These programs may also be matched with energy assistance.

Programs vary by utility and are only available for a limited time. If you’re behind on your bills, find your utility below for details about their COVID-19 relief program. Contact your utility provider today!

Avista

Avista customers may enroll in the following programs:

Automatic Grant – Designed for customers with a history of low-income program eligibility, customers will automatically receive a one-time grant equal to the amount of their total past due balance up to $1,500.

Arrearage Forgiveness Grant – A one-time grant to forgive past due balances up to $1,000 for customers who have received energy assistance with the last 24 months.

For more information, call Avista at 800-227-9187 or click the logo above.

 

Cascade Natural Gas

 

Cascade Natural Gas customers may enroll in the following programs:

Automatic Hardship Grant – Designed for customers with a history of low-income program eligibility, qualified customers will automatically receive a one-time grant equal to the amount of their total past due balance up to $1,500.

Financial Hardship Grant – Designed for customers who have not received energy assistance in the last 24 months but is experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. Cascade Natural will determine the qualified customer’s benefit amount based on household size, income, and account balance. The grant, not to exceed $1,500, will be applied to the customer’s past due balance.

For more information, call Cascade Natural at 888-522-1130 or click the logo above.

 

Idaho Power

Idaho Power customers may enroll in one of the following programs:

40/60 Balance Split – A one-time grant for qualifying customers with larger past due balances who are able to make a lump sum payment of 40 percent of their balance. Idaho Power will then pay the remaining 60 percent of the balance up to $1,200.

Payment Arrangement Match – Relief to qualifying customers able to make payments over time. Idaho Power will match the payments up to a total of $1,200 or 12 months.

Instant Grant – A one-time credit/grant up to $250 to provide immediate debt relief to qualifying customers with smaller past due balances. 

For more information, call Idaho Power at 800-388-6040 or click the logo above.

 

NW Natural

NW Natural customers may enroll in more than one of the following programs (up to $1,200):

Instant Grant – A one-time immediate grant up to $300 to provide immediate debt relief for qualified customers with smaller past due balances.

50/50 Matching Grant – A one-time matching grant to provide debt relief, up to $600, when their matching payment equal to 50 percent of the total account balance is received.

Time Payment Arrangement with Matching Grant – The customer enrolls in a time payment arrangement and receives a matching grant installment toward their past due balance each month their payment is received. The grant is equal to 50 percent of the total account balance, up to $1,200, divided equally by the number of payments required by the time payment arrangement.

For more information, call NW Natural at 800-422-4012 or click the logo above.

 

Pacific Power

Pacific Power customers may enroll in one of the following programs:

Extended Payment Match – Qualifying customers who require long-term payment arrangements on past due balances will receive a monthly payment match up to $1,000 for 12 months, until the past due balance is paid in full, or the $1,000 maximum is met.

Instant Grant – A one-time grant up to $500 is offered to help customers pay off past due balances, reconnect service, or set up an extended payment plan.

For more information, call PacifiCorp at 888-221-7070 or click the logo above.

 
 
Portland General Electric

 

Portland General Electric customers may enroll in more than one of the following programs (up to $1,000):

50/50 Plan – A one-time PGE bill payment to match a customer payment of an equal value.

Three-Month Payment Match – PGE will match customer payments for up to three months or until the outstanding balance is $0.

Extended Match Program – PGE will match customer payments for up to 12 months if the customer enrolls in a Time Payment Arrangement Plan for up to 24 months.

Customer Assistance – A one-time bill payment by PGE up to $500 for qualifying customers to get their account current. This will cover any remaining balance for customers who received energy assistance through the Oregon Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Reconnect Assistance – Once the disconnection moratorium expires, PGE will match a customer’s payment to reconnect their disconnected service.

For more information, call Portland General Electric at 503-228-6322 or click the logo above.

 

For more information about these programs, please visit the Oregon Public Utility Commission.