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 When their landlord failed to keep up with maintenance, the building’s HUD subsidy was revoked, driving up the rent and utility costs.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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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 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.

Winter Storms Show the Risks Energy Burdened Oregonians Face

Winter Storms Show the Risks Energy Burdened Oregonians Face

Oregon has been through a lot lately. Barely six months after September’s devastating wildfires, a major winter storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, with ice and snow snapping trees and power lines and plunging much of northwest Oregon into darkness.

Teams at Portland General, Pacific Power, and other utilities mobilized immediately, working around the clock to repair the damage. Many of us at OEF lost power ourselves, and we’re incredibly grateful to the utility employees who braved the cold and worked so hard for all of us.

For most of us, the experience of no power is rare. But for our low-income neighbors, it’s a present and constant worry.

1 in 4 Oregon households spend 6% or more of their income on energy each year, a phenomenon known as a high energy burden. These families are in constant danger of missed bill payments and, if they fall too far behind, power shutoffs. Many regularly sacrifice food, rent, or medication to make ends meet.

The circumstances we experienced en masse this winter are a fact of life for energy burdened families. Many turn off the heat and brave cold temperatures in their homes to keep the bills low. Others risk house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning by relying on candles or bringing generators inside.

Losing power also carries hidden costs, as those of us who had to throw out fridges full of food can attest. For families on a shoestring budget, the loss of hundreds of dollars of groceries often means hungry nights until the next paycheck arrives.

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are useless without power, to say nothing of in-home medical equipment like wheelchairs or respirators. And rural homes that rely on wells lose access to water for washing, bathing, and drinking.

This recent storm is a sobering reminder of the risks that low-income and energy-burdened families face every day. And so as light and warmth return to our homes and we process our experiences, let’s also remember the people who struggle to pay for those basic needs, and what we can do to help.

Please join me in giving thanks, and giving back.

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In Her Own Words: Nancy

In Her Own Words: Nancy

Since COVID-19, we’ve all been social distancing in our homes. But what if you live somewhere that’s not possible? 

Nancy lives in a 420 sq. ft. apartment in a senior community in Salem. Her apartment has poor ventilation and no exhaust fan, and she shares the hallways, elevators, and other facilities with the other residents.  Because of all the overlap, she told us it’s very difficult to maintain a healthy environment and worries about exposure to COVID-19. 

To keep her apartment safe, Nancy has kept the window open for the last six months with a fan running to help the air circulate – even in the winter. But because of the cold temperatures, her heating bills have risen dramatically.  

Nancy has no income except for social security, and the increase in her bills was a major financial burden. Fortunately, she qualified to receive energy assistance, which helped her catch up on her bills. In fact, she was so grateful for the help she received that she decided to give back by donating to Oregon Energy Fund’s energy assistance program.

Even though it was just a small amount, she says, “we’re all in this together – it shouldn’t just be words. She asked herself: “What can I do right here that will make a difference? If there’s things we can do that help ourselves, help our neighbors – that improves life for everyone.” 

No one should fall behind on their bills to protect their health. Thank you to Nancy for her generosity – please join her in supporting OEF’s energy assistance program today! 

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2020: The Year in Review

2020: The Year in Review

Dear friends, 

Back in January, none of us could imagine what this year had in store: a global pandemic, mass unemployment, monstrous wildfires, and waves of social upheaval. Trial after trial. I don’t often say this, but I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to this year. 

And yet 2020 has not broken usThrough these difficult months, weve also seen unprecedented acts of compassion and generositycooperation and grace. We’ve seen countless people look out for their neighbors and make sacrifices for the common good. And as we at OEF have stood on the frontlines of this economic crisis, helping our neighbors pay for the basic costs of light and heat, we’ve felt the unwavering strength of our donor community behind us all the while. To all of you, I say: thank you.  

COVID-19 defined this year. As incomes dropped and more people than ever fell behind on their utility bills, we pivoted promptly to respond, taking our workspace virtual and launching an emergency fundraising campaign. We teamed up with our partners to adjust our application process and allow clients to receive energy assistance from  their own homes instead of traveling office buildingsAs part of our advocacy efforts, we helped craft an agreement between the Public Utility Commission and the investor-owned utilities across the state to extend shutoff moratoria through spring 2021. And we distributed $754,000 in funds to 3,072 people across the state, ensuring our neighbors could continue to pay for energy without sacrificing food, rent, or medicine. 

In the midst of this, we also launched a new Year of the Student campaign to address the energy burdens experienced by students and their families as they take classes from home this yearThe inaugural program, a collaboration with the K-5 charter school KairosPDX, will provide $20 in monthly energy bill assistance for one year to qualifying families. And that’s only the startwe look forward to introducing more programs like this in 2021. 

Our work is only beginning. And as our neighbors face the prospect of a long, cold winter, your continued support ithat much more critical. But I have hopeThanks to you, we have met the challenges of this tumultuous year. We did not break. And if we stand united as we have these past months, if we refuse to be discouraged by the road ahead – then I believe a brighter future is out there, waiting for us. Let’s go there together. 

Brian Allbritton, Executive Director 

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