Federal, state and local governments should view recent heat waves as a wake-up call to develop a long-term strategy to help low-income families adapt to rising temperatures.
We treat cooling the same way we treat heating
Extreme heat is no less dangerous than extreme cold. But today, in many states, landlords are only required to provide their tenants with heat — not cooling.
These are old rules that need updating to reflect rising temperatures.
About 7 million low- and middle-income households (earning less than $40,000) do not use air conditioning equipment, likely because they cannot afford it. That’s why states should require landlords to provide cooling to their tenants.
Establishing provisions for closing facilities during the summer
These are, at best, first aid solutions. Countries need stronger lockdown protections during the summer that apply to the entire season.
Provide additional financing
Considering rising electricity prices, we at the National Energy Aid Managers Association project that the cost of home energy this summer will rise to about $540, compared to $450 last summer.
In addition, more funding should be made available for the federal government’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides state-specific grants to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. Currently, states use about 85% of the program’s funding to help families pay heating bills. More funding will enable it to provide more powerful cooling assistance and equipment, too.
High temperatures are killing people. Helping low-income families adapt to a hotter world and get the relief they need should be a major component of the country’s climate adaptation strategy.