One in five American schoolchildren live below the federal poverty level. In Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage, one in three children are from poor households. 46.5 million people currently live in poverty in the United States, with 20.4 million living on an income that is half the level that designates the poverty threshold. For a family of 4, the current divide is $24,250 according to federal guidelines.
Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Low Income Solar Act of 2015 that would help offset the initial costs of switching to solar energy. In his press release below, Bernie Sanders outlined how this program would work along with the benefits to individuals and businesses who would qualify for the loans.
“While the cost of solar panels has gone down in recent years, it is still out of reach for millions of low-income families that need it the most,” said Sanders. “Families across this country struggle to pay electricity bills and access to solar energy can help reduce these costs.”
The Low Income Solar Act of 2015 was introduced on the same day the White House proposed an initiative to make solar power more accessible to households and businesses. The Sanders bill would provide $200 million in loans and grants through the Department of Energy to offset the upfront costs for solar arrays on community facilities, public housing and low-income family homes. These projects would be required to prioritize loans for woman- and minority-owned small businesses and set aside funding for developing solar arrays in Appalachia, Indian tribal lands and Alaskan native communities.
While low-income families are the hardest hit by rising utility prices, they are also the hardest hit by the impacts of climate change. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the poor spend more than 60 percent of their income on basic necessities including electricity and food, compared to less than 45 percent for wealthy families. Helping low-income families use solar power addresses both of these issues.
“The scientific community tells us very clearly if we’re going to reverse climate change and the great dangers it poses for the planet we must move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy,” Sanders said. “We can achieve this goal, save families money and protect the planet for future generations.” (Source)
Not long ago, conservatives talked about solar energy as if it was a joke, or a novelty item for rich hippies and their stereotyped lifestyle. As solar panels have become cheaper in recent years, many people who previously scoffed at the idea have quietly switched to solar or have even gone into the business of selling the panels they once laughed at. Even some who reject climate change as some sort of liberal plot to destroy the economy have embraced solar energy because it saves them money, especially when you also get that sweet tax credit to help offset that cost.
Conventional energy costs are quite expensive and while wealthier Americans can afford the costs to install solar panels, lower-income individuals simply can’t. As an example of the cost of conventional energy, the average electric bill here in Louisiana during July is nearly $200, as well as in Mississippi which is also an incredibly poor state. If you can reduce or even eliminate a monthly electric bill, that’s money people on a tight budget can spend on other things, which is a potential boost to the local economy instead of some distant utility company.
Also, while some folks don’t care about the environmental aspect or refuse to accept climate change as a scientific fact, it’s worth pointing out that coal accounts for 39% of America’s electric supply. If we can reduce the amount of coal being burnt to create electricity, that would be a big help in cutting down on pollution as well. Of course, that isn’t going to fly well with the Koch brothers who, along with their political allies, have launched an assault on solar energy.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to support the Low Income Solar Act of 2015. This bill would help put more money in the pockets of the poorest Americans and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which works out to be a win for us all.
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