Our Response to COVID-19

Our Response to COVID-19

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Oregon Energy Fund has announced new measures to support Oregonians who are struggling to pay their household energy bills due to loss of work following the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. These steps include releasing its annual round of statewide funding nearly three months early and transitioning from in-person to remote applications whenever possible. OEF has also launched an emergency COVID-19 relief fund and is seeking donations from the public to support families impacted by the outbreak.

“Early surveys show that 1 in 5 households nationwide have lost work because of the coronavirus outbreak,” said OEF Executive Director Brian Allbritton. “While eviction moratoriums and suspensions of utility disconnections are a welcome step, these actions will not prevent families from accruing charges at a time when their income has been wiped out. Energy assistance funds will help ensure Oregonians don’t have to sacrifice meals, medicine, or other necessities to pay their bills in this hour of need. Furthermore, private donations can be applied more quickly and with more flexibility than federal dollars, allowing funds to be available immediately for families who have been thrown into crisis.”

1 in 4 Oregon households were “energy burdened” last year, with thousands spending up to 25% of their annual income on energy. With the sudden and intense surge of unemployment caused by COVID-19, however, the number of energy burdened households is anticipated to rise dramatically, with wages dropping as household energy use rises. Such utility hardship has been linked to pneumonia, heart disease, arthritis, depression, diabetes, food insecurity, debt, and homelessness, exacerbating the very conditions that make certain populations more vulnerable to the virus.

OEF distributes funds in partnership with a network of community-based agencies around the state. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, OEF and its partners are updating application protocols to reduce the risk of community spread and make it easier for clients to apply remotely for help.

In anticipation of the expected increase in energy assistance requests, OEF has also expedited its next funding cycle from October to late summer. OEF has also created an emergency relief fund and is requesting donations from the public to meet the high level of need. Donations can be made at www.oregonenergyfund.org/relief. Oregon residents who are in need of energy assistance are encouraged to visit www.oregonenergyfund.org/energy-assistance to learn how to apply.


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Where Else Can I Find Energy Assistance in Oregon?

Where Else Can I Find Energy Assistance in Oregon?

Finding energy assistance in Oregon can be a challenge sometimes. Oregon Energy Fund provides energy assistance funds to nearly 40 community agencies across the state, and we encourage anyone who needs help paying their energy bills to start here. Because of high demand, however, our partners don’t always have appointments or funding available. What then?

Fortunately, there are many other local organizations that help low-income families pay their household bills. To help you in your search, we’ve put together a list of some of the best places to find energy assistance in Oregon.

Please note that most of these organizations are not official partners of Oregon Energy Fund. We cannot guarantee the existence of dedicated energy assistance funds.

General Energy Assistance Resources

211 is a statewide hotline that connects Oregonians with resources for energy assistance, rental assistance, employment, shelter, food, health care, and more. You can call the hotline directly by dialing 2-1-1 on any phone. You can also go to www.211info.org and enter your zip code to find resources in your area.

Churches & Community Centers
Sometimes you can find help right in your neighborhood. Many churches and local community centers have funds that can be used to help community members in crisis, and can also provide support and counseling if needed. Most Community Action organizations also provide energy assistance.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Oregon Energy Assistance Program (OEAP) are government-funded programs that provide energy assistance to low-income households. LIHEAP & OEAP are available throughout Oregon; click here for a list of local offices.

Another government program is the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which fixes drafts and leaks and helps lower your electric bill by making your home more energy efficient. You can see agencies that offer weatherization in Oregon here.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is an international charity organization that assists around 23 million Americans each year. In addition to food pantries, thrift stores, and emergency shelters, many Salvation Army locations also have reserve funding for energy assistance. Click here to find a Salvation Army near you.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a volunteer-run Catholic organization that provides a variety of services to help low-income families with food, rent, and utilities. A national organization, SVDP operates a number of chapters in Oregon, including (but not limited to) Bend, RedmondPrineville, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Eugene, Salem, Portland, and McMinnville.

Your Local Utility 
It’s true! Many utilities offer assistance programs or payment plans for low-income customers. If you’re falling behind on your bill, it’s a good idea to give your utility a call and let them know you’re having trouble, especially if you have a medical condition that is reliant on electricity. Find yours below or do a Google search for “[Utility Name] Bill Assistance.”


Additional Energy Assistance Resources by County*


Clackamas County Energy Assistance

Wilsonville Community Sharing

Clatsop County Energy Assistance

Community Action Team

Columbia County Energy Assistance

HOPE of Rainier (Columbia Pacific Food Bank)

Turning Point Community Services

Gilliam County Energy Assistance

Condon Community Food Pantry

Jackson County Energy Assistance

Jackson County Fuel Committee (wood only)

Klamath County Energy Assistance

Oregon Human Development Corp.

Lane County Energy Assistance

Campbell Community Center (seniors only)

Community Sharing

Centro Latino Americano

Junction City Local Aid

Lane County Senior & Disabled Services

Malheur County Energy Assistance

Malheur Council on Aging and Community Services

Marion County Energy Assistance

Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action

Multnomah County Energy Assistance

Community Energy Project (Weatherization)

El Programa Hispano Católico

Polk County Energy Assistance

Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action

*If you’re aware of any additional organizations that provide energy assistance in Oregon, please let us know so we can add them to this list!

PS. While you’re looking, check out our list of 10 quick and easy ways to save on your electric bill right now.

OEF Receives $7,500 Grant from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation

OEF Receives $7,500 Grant from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation

Oregon Energy Fund (OEF) has received a $7,500 grant from the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation to provide emergency energy bill assistance to Josephine County residents in financial crisis. The grant was presented on January 14, 2020, in an award ceremony at the Seven Feathers Hotel and Casino Resort Convention Center in Canyonville. OEF will work with the United Community Action Network (UCAN) in Grants Pass to distribute the funds.

“Nearly 44% of Josephine County households struggle to pay their energy bills each year,” said OEF Executive Director Brian Allbritton. “Thousands of families spend up to a quarter of their income on their bills, putting them at risk of power shutoffs, illness, hunger, and even homelessness. This grant will help ensure that Josephine County families don’t have to sacrifice food, rent, medicine, or other necessities to pay for the basic need of electricity.”

1 in 4 Oregon households were considered “energy burdened” last year, meaning they spend more than 6% of their income on energy. Utility hardship of this nature has been linked to pneumonia, heart disease, arthritis, depression, diabetes, and malnutrition, along with housing insecurity and childhood trauma. Yet only 17% of households in need received assistance last year before government funds ran out, leaving thousands of families without aid.

The grant will be used to pay electric bills for families who are facing a power shutoff, or have fallen behind on their bills, and need help catching up. OEF’s current program in Josephine County supports around 30 families a year; the funds from Cow Creek will allow OEF to provide assistance to an additional 20 households. UCAN will assist OEF by screening applicants and ensuring they meet the necessary requirements.

“As Oregon Energy Fund enters its 30th year of powering lives, we’re constantly looking for new ways to support our neighbors, especially those in rural areas,” Allbritton said. “We’re grateful to the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation for helping us bring light and warmth to the people of Josephine County this winter.”

Josephine County residents in need of energy assistance should contact UCAN at 541-956-4050 to learn how to apply, or click here for more information.

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1989-2019: The Years in Review

1989-2019: The Years in Review

“The need is pressing. So why doesn’t somebody do something about it? And then I realized…I was somebody.”


– Victor Atiyeh, Founding Director Emeritus


Dear friends,

It’s been 30 years since Victor Atiyeh sat down with a board of community members and decided to take on Oregon’s utility hardship crisis. The numbers were, and are, sobering. 27% of Oregonians struggle to pay their bills annually — twice the number who face food insecurity. Thousands spend up to a quarter of their income on energy, facing hunger, illness, and homelessness as a result. Yet in 1989, there was nowhere to turn for help.

The solution: a nonprofit that would work with community agencies and local utilities across Oregon to bring energy assistance to families in need. Its mission: that no one should be in dark. Since 1989, Oregon Energy Fund has helped more than 300,000 people pay their bills, and provided support and guidance to countless others. Throughout, we’ve been guided by the same values: compassion for those less fortunate; collaboration with like-minded Oregonians, and innovation to address a widespread need.

I’m especially proud of the work we’ve accomplished this year. In March, we officially launched our Senior Discount Program with Meals on Wheels People and Portland General Electric. So far, this groundbreaking collaboration has provided relief to nearly 100 seniors in the Portland area, and is only growing.

We expanded our partnerships to include the Latino Network, the Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA), and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and tripled our funding to 11 counties in eastern Oregon. We provided energy assistance to furloughed workers during the government shutdown in January, and traveled to the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition conference in May to accept the Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation.

Together, we raised more than $1.4 million and assisted more than 3,000 Oregonians in 2019. I can’t tell you how inspired I am by your support, and what we’ve been able to do with it. Year after year, we hear from recipients who tell us how energy assistance let them heat and feed their family, and not have to choose. How our funds gave them the hope they needed to get through the winter. Many are donors now, giving back to help others. Your support matters. It goes and goes and goes.

As the year winds down, I’ve been reflecting on our work as an organization: where we’ve come from, where we’re going next. Can we prevent Oregonians from falling into crisis in the first place? Can we develop programs to help people achieve long-term energy stability? And can we tackle the pressing issues of our time, like homelessness and climate change?

These are difficult, complex questions, and there’s not one solution. But I keep coming back to Victor Atiyeh, and how he wished somebody would do something — until he realized he was somebody. So am I. So are you. Each of us holds a piece of the answer, the ability to make a difference in someone’s life — to work towards an Oregon where no family has to brave a winter’s night without light or heat. We’ve reached where we are today thanks to you, our incredible family. And if we continue to work together, the future is bright indeed.

Brian Allbritton
Executive Director

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OEF Triples Aid to Underserved Oregon Communities

OEF Triples Aid to Underserved Oregon Communities

Like many things, utility hardship is not distributed evenly. Rural areas are more energy burdened than cities, but often lack the equivalent funds and resources. People of color also have higher energy burden rates than average, with 74% of Oregon’s Native population facing a severe energy burden.

Here at OEF, we strive to support overburdened and underserved communities such as these. And this winter, we’re pleased to provide a meaningful increase of funds to both of these groups.

The need is rural Oregon is particularly great. In remote Malheur County, nearly 50% of all households are severely energy burdened — double the statewide average. Rural families also face a harsher level of hardship, with the poorest homes forced to devote nearly 40% of their income to energy. But small populations and low donor rates mean these areas typically receive only meager funding.

To address this disparity, OEF plans to increase energy assistance funds to 11 eastern Oregon counties: Baker, Grant, Gillian, Harney, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler. Thanks to a generous anonymous donation, we’ll be able to triple our overall funding in this area, with the most underserved counties receiving five times more aid than last year. This will let us support around 200 additional households across the region, allowing them to devote more of their resources to food, rent, and medicine.

Additionally, OEF has received a $20,000 grant from CareOregon, which will support Oregon Health Plan members and aims to prevent health problems among households of color. As reported in our Fall newsletter, energy burdened families often face a high risk of illness, including respiratory diseases, heart problems, hunger, and depression.

This grant will double our funds to two of our Portland-area partners, Latino Network and the Native American Youth & Family Center, and will act to prevent poor health and childhood trauma. Both organizations were selected for the level of need among their two populations, as well as their dedicated outreach to families. Last year, for example, 2/3rds of Latino Network’s OEF recipients were children.

Both grants will greatly increase our ability to support historically underserved communities, ensuring families can live healthy and productive lives. Thanks to our funders for their support!


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30 Years of Powering Lives

30 Years of Powering Lives

Recipients, donors, and friends share what Oregon Energy Fund
has meant to them over the last three decades.

Image of a smiling mother and daughter.


“Without heat, you don’t have anything. You can’t cook. The refrigerator doesn’t work. And how was my daughter supposed to do her homework without lights? I appreciate the community looking out for people who need help. That’s a great community.”

Cheryl, OEF recipient


“We don’t ask for much and take great pride in making it on our own. But when we really needed the help, OEF was there to help us.

Rachel, OEF recipient

I saw how resolving one problem can help people stabilize their lives and gain control over other issues. That’s why I’m glad OEF is here to help.”

James, former case manager

Image of a handwritten note that reads: "We really appreciate the work & financial help the Home Energy Assistance Program does for those in need. We remember, well, how we were helped by the program. Keep up the wonderful work you do in trying to keep people warm during the winter. Thanks!"

“The assistance from OEF allowed us to keep our electricity and our gas going, and it enabled us to pay doctor bills.

Diana, OEF recipient

“OEF has opened my eyes and heart to people who can’t count on what I take from granted: I turn up the thermostat and the heat comes on. I hit a switch and the lights come on. I wish I could give more. But I’ll keep giving.

Steven, OEF donor

I’m amazed at the extent of OEF’s aid to communities across Oregon, and your commitment to helping those in need. Thank you for your wonderful work helping communities stay warm and keep the lights on.”

Teresa, OEF donor

“My husband developed a life-threatening medical condition that temporarily put him out of work. The only income we had was his small military pension. Oregon Energy Fund helped cover our bill and find a new job.

OEF recipient

It felt like a Mack Truck being lifted off of me. It was one less thing I had to worry about, knowing that when we got home, we’d be going home to a warm house, and I could cook for my daughter and bathe her, and we could go to sleep without that worry.”

Renauda, OEF recipient

Image of a smiling older woman sitting in an easy chair with a ball of yarn in her lap.


“I am a past recipient, and if I donate another 30 years, I’ll not come close to how important that aid was to me then. (5 children, winter ahead, no hope, very little money.) Thank you for that. I hope I can keep helping you help others. It’s so very important.

Shannon, OEF donor


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Oregon Energy Fund receives $20,000 grant from CareOregon

Oregon Energy Fund receives $20,000 grant from CareOregon

We are proud to announce that Oregon Energy Fund has received a $20,000 grant from CareOregon! The contribution will be used locally in Multnomah County to help area residents get caught up on their electric bills so they can avoid power shutoffs. OEF is working in partnership with Latino Network and Native American Youth & Family Center to screen residents needing financial support.

 “This grant from CareOregon will allow us to provide a meaningful increase of funding to our neighbors in Multnomah County,” said Brian Allbritton, Executive Director of the Oregon Energy Fund. “Energy assistance is particularly vital in the winter months, as more people struggle to cover the cost of heating their homes. These funds will help ensure families can stay warm and healthy this season without sacrificing meals or medical care.”

According to a recent 2018 study, one-in-four households in Multnomah County are considered energy burdened—meaning they spend more than 6% of household earnings on home energy costs. These numbers are even higher for households of color.

Being energy burdened puts families at risk of falling behind on bills and cutting back on essential expenses such as food and medication. A power shutoff can even lead to eviction, especially for families in low-income housing or those who underpay rent to try and catch up on their bills.

“We have a housing crisis in Multnomah County,” said Shawn DeCarlo, CareOregon shared learning and grant evaluation program manager. “Too many families are struggling to make ends meet. The fact that tenants can be evicted for having their power shut off makes the Oregon Energy Fund program an important tool for helping vulnerable families stay housed. We’re proud that this $20,000 grant will help alleviate some of the financial strains our neighbors are facing.”

Grant funds will be used to pay late electric bills for households facing a power shutoff. On average, the energy assistance payment is $341 per household, paid directly by OEF to the utility provider. Oregon Energy Fund is partnering with Latino Network and Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA) to screen individuals to ensure they meet program requirements.

“Studies show that utility hardship affects more people than most other ‘conditions of poverty,’” said Allbritton. “More than unemployment, more than falling behind on rent, even more than food insecurity. It is a pervasive and persistent problem. This donation from CareOregon is going to make a real difference to our neighbors this winter.”

Thank you to CareOregon for helping us keep our neighbors warm and healthy! Read more about the grant on CareOregon’s website. If you are in need of energy assistance, please click here.

“I Never Thought I’d Be Asking For Help”: In Their Own Words

“I Never Thought I’d Be Asking For Help”: In Their Own Words

Coral, a former state employee and great-grandmother, recently received assistance from OEF. She shared her experience with us.

“I never thought I would be asking for help. I always thought that I would be the one helping others. But I don’t earn that much, and I have trouble paying for my medication as well.

I feel so lucky that this program exists to help me. Energy assistance helped my great-grandkids stay warm. Without Oregon Energy Fund, I’d really be up a crick.”

– Coral, OEF recipient


Image of a woman in a baseball cap and her dog sitting in front of trees.


“I recently found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. I was past due on all my bills and in need of help.

I’ve never needed any kind of public assistance before, and finding myself in such an unfamiliar situation was very hard and stressful. This guidance and energy assistance was much needed, and very appreciated. I am very thankful for the kindness and understanding.

Oregon Energy Fund is a fantastic organization that fills a much needed gap in our community!”

– Christy, OEF recipient

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Health and Utility Hardship: A Vicious Cycle

Health and Utility Hardship: A Vicious Cycle

“At least you’ve got your health.”

It’s a common sentiment for folks who have fallen on hard times. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you lost your home. As long as you’re healthy, you’ll be okay.

But often, that’s easier said than done. Many of the issues facing our neighbors – too-high rents, too-low wages, wildfires and volatile weather – are themselves responsible for a range of health problems, from stress and anxiety all the way to serious physical illnesses. For families already struggling to make ends meet, the resulting medical bills can be devastating.

That’s what happened to Richard and his wife Louise, two seniors who live in Clackamas County.

Two years ago, Louise was diagnosed with cancer. Though she and Richard had insurance, it wasn’t enough to cover her treatment, and the cost wiped out their savings. Before long, the desperate couple found themselves more than $8,000 in medical debt and thousands behind on their other expenses, including their energy bill.

This was bad enough. But their debt put them in fresh peril – because Richard is diabetic, and relies on refrigerated insulin to stay well. Having fallen so far behind, the couple was at risk of having their power shut off, which could spoil Richard’s medication and put his own health in danger. It was only after receiving energy assistance from OEF that the two were able to catch up on their household bills and begin to recover.

Health problems lead to utility hardship, which leads to health problems. A vicious cycle.

The problem runs deep. 41% of participants in a national survey went without medical or dental care last year to pay their energy bills. Others skipped filling prescriptions or took less than the necessary dosage. Studies have linked utility hardship to illnesses as varied as pneumonia, heart failure, diabetes, malnutrition, hypothermia, and arthritis.

But as with homelessness and hunger, energy assistance is a solution to the problem of illness and poor health. And here at OEF, we’re dedicated to ensuring that, even in their darkest hour, our neighbors have their health.

Just $30 can keep your neighbors warm and healthy.

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