The Heating Energy Assistance Team (H.E.A.T.) began as a program of Atlanta Gas Light Company, an Atlanta-based natural gas utility, in 1983 as a new effort to raise money for low-income energy assistance. At that time, the only source for energy assistance in Georgia was from the federal government. Even though the state was spending millions of federal dollars each year for that purpose, the need was still great. Official estimates were that only one-fourth of the potentially eligible 400,000 households received help.
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw dramatic increases in the costs of all types of energy. That affected our entire society, especially the poor. In addition, while costs rose, the benefits from public assistance programs increased during the mid-1980s, but then dropped substantially after the winter of 1986-87.
Against this background, Frances F. Pauley, advocate for the poor and founder of the Georgia Poverty Rights Organization, approached Atlanta Gas Light Company about doing something to reduce the burden that rising energy costs were placing on low-income citizens. Aware of the growing need for energy assistance, the company already was studying the steps it needed to take to establish a fuel fund in Georgia.
Atlanta Gas Light Company joined forces with Ms. Pauley and the H.E.A.T. program was formed as a "team" effort to help provide much-needed energy assistance. The major participants were Atlanta Gas Light Company, First Georgia Bank (now Wells Fargo), the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and a citizens advisory committee. At the time of the program's formation, it had these unique features - statewide availability of assistance, open to all regardless of energy source used, and matching federal grants.
With the deregulation of the natural gas industry in Georgia, H.E.A.T. became a separate 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in May 2000. Its mission continues to be to provide energy assistance to the less fortunate as a joint effort among concerned citizens, businesses, and state government. H.E.A.T. is administered under the auspices of a board of directors consisting of volunteer business and consumer leaders from around the state.
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