Pandemic has lasting impact on those struggling to pay utilities


PROVIDENCE — After another difficult winter, “Keep the Heat On,” the heating assistance program for the Diocese of Providence, continued to provide great relief to Rhode Islanders struggling to pay their utility bills, many due to circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year was expected to be a challenging one for those seeking assistance, explained Jim Jahnz, secretary for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry for the diocese.
“While there was a great deal of federal assistance available this year, that relief did not reach everyone, which made the significance of Keep the Heat On as important as ever,” said Jahnz. “The effects of COVID illnesses and the closure of businesses during the pandemic had a lasting effect on incomes.”
This year, Keep the heat On assisted just about 2,400 people (607 households); distributing a total amount of $171,119.55 in oil, gas and electric to clients.
Despite the unique challenges of this year, many continued to help those in need by giving generously to this program. In January 2021, the National Grid Foundation made another major gift donation to Keep the Heat On. The donation of $250,000 is the eighth major gift that the heating assistance program has accepted from the Foundation and the largest to date, more than double last year’s donation of $100,000. More than $113,000 was also donated from the community.
“We could not help as many people as we have this year without the generosity of our donors,” said Jahnz. “In addition to a sizable donation from the National Grid Foundation, we saw a marked increase in the number of donors this year over the past two years. I think that is reflective of the commitment that those in the diocese have towards Keep the Heat On.”
Throughout the years, Keep the Heat On has been a truly life-saving program for thousands of Rhode Island families, helping households with nowhere else to turn for help staying warm in the winter. Since 2005, the program has raised $3.1 million and provided a much-needed lifeline to more than 14,000 households, individuals and families.
“Keep the Heat On continues to be the resource of last resort for those in need,” said Jahnz. “There are so many in need that oftentimes they slip through the cracks. ‘Keep the Heat On’ insures that Rhode Island households will stay warm.”