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.

Please Give Today!

Oregon Energy Fund’s 2019 Power Gala is October 12th, 2019!

Oregon Energy Fund’s 2019 Power Gala is October 12th, 2019!

It’s our 30th birthday! Please join the Oregon Energy Fund at our 2019 Power Gala as we celebrate three decades of powering lives.

Our signature 1920s-themed event will be held on October 12th, 2019, at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland. It will feature a cocktail hour, delicious Northwest cuisine, live and silent auctions, live music, a speakeasy photo booth, stories from OEF recipients, and more! Don’t forget to dress up in your finest Great Gatsby-era attire!

Proceeds from the event will support Oregon Energy Fund’s mission to strengthen household stability by assisting Oregonians in financial crisis with their energy bills.

Looking for tickets? Want to volunteer? Just curious for more information? Head over to OregonEnergyFund.org/PowerGala for details!

Hosted by Joe Vithayathil of KPTV FOX 12
Auctioneer: Misty Marquam of Marquam Auction Agency
Music by Smut City Jellyroll Society
Photo booth by InstaPix NW

Energy Assistance Helps Oregon Families Avoid Homelessness

Energy Assistance Helps Oregon Families Avoid Homelessness

Last year, Jennifer in Linn County abruptly lost her job. Jennifer is a single mom and relied on her salary to support her children. But when her company downsized, her position was eliminated, leaving her dangerously adrift.

Jennifer applied to job after job without success. Her savings and unemployment ran out. She fell behind on the bills, then the rent. She finally found work after months of looking – but her first check was still a month away, and her debts were critical. If she missed her rent or her bills just one more time, her family could lose their home.

For Jennifer, this story has a happy ending. After applying for help from Oregon Energy Fund, she received energy assistance that helped her catch up on her past-due bills. But those funds didn’t just keep the lights on. They also meant that she could devote the last of her savings to the rent – rescuing her family from the looming threat of eviction and homelessness.

Jennifer’s story is far too common. Around 433,000 Oregon households, or 1 in 4, struggle to pay their energy bills each year, a condition known as utility hardship. In some areas, utility hardship affects more low-income families than any other condition of poverty, including unemployment or falling behind on the rent. Some families spend up to 40% of their income on their bills.

This year, we’re working to better understand utility hardship: who it affects, what its consequences are. Our research has found that falling behind on the bills often has a snowball effect. Thousands of households cut back on meals or medicine to try and catch up, leading to illness and malnutrition. Many turn to payday loans or other predatory lenders.

And nearly 25% of respondents to a national energy assistance survey became homeless because of their energy bills.

Image of two charts. The top chart shows "Top 10 Most Common Conditions of Poverty Experienced." The top reason is "Falling behind on utility bills/no heat," with 55.7% of All Respondents, 52.4% of Children Under 5, 47.2% of Seniors, and 54.1% of Working. Other conditions include Trouble saving money for emergencies, unemployment, and increase in rent. The second chart shows "Top 10 Most Common Resource Priorities to Feel Stable and Secure." The top reason is "Affordable Utility Bills," 43.5% of All respondents, 57.7% of Seniors, and 40.4% of Working. Other priorities include Affordable Housing, Improving Credit, and Access to Dental Care.

We’ve also found that energy assistance effectively prevents  families from hitting bottom. A recent study by the Community Action Organization of Beaverton found that “affordable utility bills” was the top priority for people in poverty. Energy assistance is also less costly than many remedial social programs, and keeps at-risk families in their homes as they stabilize.

As we mark our 30th anniversary and look ahead to the future, we’re exploring ways to engage with the important issues in our community. Across Oregon, more than 150,000 households are on the brink on homelessness – people like Jennifer and her family. With your help, Oregon Energy Fund can keep them healthy, safe, and housed – and prevent the homeless of tomorrow from ever reaching that point.

Will you help us prevent homelessness?

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OEF Receives 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation

OEF Receives 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation

Oregon Energy Fund has been named a recipient of the 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award, a national award for innovation and exemplary achievement in the field of energy assistance.

The Victorine Q. Adams Award is given by the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) and recognizes “a nonprofit organization that displays an innovative spirit towards raising public awareness and generating financial aid for people in need of energy assistance.”

OEF received the award for our Senior Discount Pilot Program, which provides recurring energy assistance to homebound seniors. A groundbreaking collaboration with Meals on Wheels People and Portland General Electric, this program allows MoWP clients who are already receiving meal deliveries to sign up for monthly energy assistance in their homes, eliminating the need to travel or take personal documents out of the home. 

This year’s award was presented at the annual NEUAC conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 4. Deputy Director Marietta Doney and Board of Directors member Tyler Richardson accepted the award on behalf of OEF.

NEUAC Executive Director Katrina Metzler, who presented the award, said, “The Senior Discount Program reduces barriers to receiving assistance, makes funds more accessible to an often-overlooked population, and ensures seniors on fixed incomes have more money to spare for necessities like food, rent, and medication.” (Click here to read more about the Senior Discount Program.)

This is the second time OEF has been recognized with the Victorine Q. Adams Award. We previously received the award in 2008 for our Oil Recycling Program, which converts donated oil from homes and businesses into funds for energy assistance. Other past recipients include Dollar Energy Fund, HeatShare Human Services of New York, and NJ SHARES.

We here at OEF are extremely grateful to NEUAC for recognizing our work, and are honored to be recognized in this way. We would especially like to thank Meyer Memorial Trust, whose generous financial support has made this pilot program possible. We look forward to finding new ways to help our fellow Oregonians meet their energy needs.


Want to help us create more local funds like the Senior Discount Program?

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Patsy’s Story: Family or Energy?

Patsy’s Story: Family or Energy?

What would you do if you had to choose between feeding a loved one and paying the energy bill? Each year, more than 400,000 Oregon families face this question – people like Patsy, a recent OEF recipient.

Patsy is a senior who lives in Multnomah County and relies on in-home oxygen to breathe. Patsy’s husband is in a care facility, and while she’s generally able to squeeze by, she has very little money left over each month for groceries and other expenses.

Last year, Patsy unexpectedly had to take in her young grandson, a life change that stretched her limited budget to the breaking point. She not only needed to buy extra groceries to feed a growing boy. Her energy bill also increased with her grandson’s needs, causing her to fall behind on her bill payments.

Patsy didn’t qualify for state or federal assistance. So she reached out to Oregon Energy Fund, where we were able to get her caught up on her bill, and pointed Patsy towards additional support programs that would prevent her from falling behind in the future.

Stories from seniors like Patsy are all too common, and one of the reasons we launched our new Senior Discount Pilot Program. This program is a collaboration with Meals on Wheels People that provides monthly energy assistance to Portland-area seniors. One-time assistance is invaluable for folks who are already in a tight situation and need a hand getting back on their feet. But for seniors whose tight budgets leave them especially vulnerable to falling behind, recurring assistance can prevent them from reaching the crisis point of having to choose between heat, rent, and food.

30 Years of Powering Lives

30 Years of Powering Lives

On October 19, 1989, a group of civic leaders met at Pacific Power in downtown Portland. Among them were representatives from Portland General Electric, the Oregon Department of Energy, Northwest Natural, and then-Governor Victor Atiyeh.

Their goal: to create a statewide, not for profit organization that would help low-income Oregonians “manage their energy needs.”

The group first adopted the name Oregon Energy Services, Inc., before settling on Oregon H.E.A.T. (Home Energy Assistance Team). In addition to being the only statewide nonprofit dedicated to energy assistance, Oregon H.E.A.T. would have a unique format.

Image of three logos, moving from Oregon Heat to Heat Oregon to Oregon Energy Fund. The text at the top reads "1989 - 2019: Our look through the years"

The organization would collaborate with local community service agencies around the state, who would then “provide energy counseling, weatherization, bill payment assistance, and referral and advocacy for other types of assistance,” according to Colleen Bennett, the first Executive Director.

In its first year of fundraising, Oregon H.E.A.T. raised more than $500,000 in donations. Three decades later, as we prepare to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ve raised more than $35 million and provided energy assistance to nearly 300,000 people across the state, thanks to the help of supporters like you.

Our name and logo may have changed, but our mission has always stayed the same: to help Oregonians keep their power on in times of crisis.

We’re proud of our service to our community over the last 30 years, and grateful to our supportive family of friends and donors across the state.

We hope you’ll join us in the coming months as we look back on 30 years of compassion, collaboration, and innovation – and look ahead to the next 30.

New Data Shines a Light on Oregon’s Energy Burden

New Data Shines a Light on Oregon’s Energy Burden

The number of energy burdened homes in Oregon declined slightly in 2018, according to new data provided by the Home Energy Affordability Gap (HEAG) and the United States Census.

Around 433,000 Oregon households spent 6% of their income or higher on their energy bills last year, according to HEAG, an annual study that calculates the affordability of US energy bills. This is down slightly from 2017, when HEAG estimated there were approximately 441,000 severely energy burdened households in the state.

Promisingly, the number of energy burdened households dropped as the total number of households rose from 1,545,745 to 1,571,631. However, this still suggests more than 27% of Oregonians struggle to pay their energy bills, confirming utility hardship as a silent and pervasive crisis across our state.

OEF compared HEAG’s calculations to data from the U.S. Census to gain a closer understanding of our state’s home energy gap and where to direct resources.

Oregon’s energy burden is felt most fiercely in its rural counties. Malheur County is the most energy burdened county in the state, with 48.81% of all households facing a severe energy burden. The next highest-burdened counties are Lake County (48%), Wheeler County (46.23%), Harney County (44.10%), and Crook County (43.82%). Meanwhile, Multnomah County has the highest number of energy burdened homes (79,492), followed by Lane County (54,271) and Washington County (37,170), though their large populations mean the overall percentages are lower.

The data also shows how a home energy burden impacts households on all economic levels. The lowest income households spend the most on energy – up to 38% of their income in some instances. These homes experience an annual shortfall of more than $2,200. However, even some households whose income lies within 200% of the poverty line have an energy burden of nearly 8%, and come up $640 short each year. Oregon’s total shortfall from its collective energy burden is nearly $350 billion.

These numbers support studies showing that low-income households and households in rural areas are more likely to be energy burdened and face a higher energy burden than the average household. (The average US energy burden is 3.5%.)

They also underscore how great the need is for energy assistance. According to Oregon Housing and Community Services, LIHEAP & OEAP were able to serve 73,763 households in 2017 before funding ran out – just 17% of households in need.

Without assistance, energy burdened households are forced to make terrible decisions. 1 in 5 American households report cutting back on food, rent, or medicine to pay for energy, while thousands resort to payday loans or other predatory forms of lending. 23% of respondents to the National Energy Assistance Survey said they either became homeless or moved in with friends or family because of energy costs – a particularly alarming fact given a recent study that found 156,000 Oregon households on the brink of homelessness. Now, more than ever, we must work together to support our neighbors in need.

For more information about Oregon’s energy gap or HEAG’s calculations, click here. If you are in need of energy assistance, please click here.