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Triple Digit Heat? Health Risks – and Help – Ahead

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012   

DENVER - June has been a record-setter in Colorado - and not in a good way.

For the last week, temperatures topped 100 degrees in many parts of the state - smashing daily highs and setting up June 2012 to become one of the hottest in Colorado history, according to the National Weather Service.

Even beyond the much-publicized fire danger, Skip Arnold, executive director of Energy Outreach Colorado, says high heat can be deadly.

"Heat waves in Chicago, and in California - we've heard a lot about heat waves in Europe. It's not uncommon in the summertime that heat waves actually kill people."

He says the problem is compounded when people don't have the money to pay electricity bills - and so they won't turn on an air conditioner to cool down a house. Energy Outreach Colorado offers summertime bill-paying help in those situations. Some of the funds come through House Bill 1028, which extended the transfer of state severance taxes to energy assistance programs through 2018. (For assistance, call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP).

The legislation splits $13 million each year between three difference programs. Kelli Fritts, AARP advocacy director, says it was a good move by state lawmakers.

"I think stuff like that is just wonderful, and really does make a big difference in the lives of people who need it. It's specifically going to Colorado homes and families through this severance tax."

EOC uses the money to partially fund assistance during the months when state and federal programs aren't available - from April through October. Arnold says the money is helpful - but the need is greater.

"It certainly doesn't cover the massive need in Colorado that low-income households have for home energy, and particularly emergency assistance."

He reminds people that during these dog days of summer, it's important to check on vulnerable family and friends to make sure they're OK and able to cope with the heat.


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