CPN Employment and Training staff members lead three public education meetings for current and potential clients of the Low Income Home Energy Program. By participating in the sessions, LIHEAP applicants were eligible to receive incentive payments toward their current electric bill.
Participants were asked to bring their current cooling bill to the meeting they attended. CPN’s Stephanie Hawk, a community services coordinator, and Gina Bundy, a social services counselor, informed approximately 120 participants about specific tools and techniques to make their homes more energy efficient. Bundy estimated that around 100 families were assisted as a result of the classes. Tribal Employment and Training Assistant Director Margaret Zientek explained the project’s necessity for those using their program.
“We have access to the LIHEAP grant so that we can help people who are at or below 150 percent of the poverty rate with their primary cooling bill in the summer and heating bill in the winter,” explained Zientek. “Because of this grant, we have the opportunity to write an education component, which is what the classes are.”
Instructions on simple, cost effective measures that can be done around the house are one aspect of the classes.
“We are teaching them skills that they can use to lower and manage their own bill,” said Zientek. “By putting reflective film on your windows – especially the ones that have the most exposure to the sun – they can reduce their cooling bill by significant amounts.”
The instructions aren’t just on physical improvements though. Education includes how to budget using plans offered by their electricity or gas providers, including using home appliances outside of peak hours.
“For people with fixed incomes, they might want to take advantage of average payment plans. The key is to pay their bill on time. In the summer, they can turn the AC up when they leave or wear lighter clothing around the house.”
As part of the LIHEAP grant program’s flexibility, CPN Employment and Training can incentivize those attending the meeting. The tribal program provides many of the tools necessary to help boost their home’s energy efficiency.
“Just by attending the meeting they will receive items that will help. We let them choose between packages of the reflective window film for the summer or take a blanket they can use in the winter. Those who attended also get an additional $95 or more to their current cooling bill for coming to the class.”
Because the federal funds for the grant program are accessed by Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the program run by CPN Employment and Training is open only to households with at least one member of a federally recognized tribal nation. The residence must be in the CPN service area of Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne, Cleveland or east of Post Road in Oklahoma County and not receive assistance from another program, like DHS or another tribe. To learn more about the tribal program, please contact CPN Employment and Training Department at 405-598-0797.