Home energy is a big concern for many families in the St. Cloud area. A high energy burden—where families spend a high percentage of their income on energy costs—often means that families are less financially secure, while poor heating, cooling, and ventilation contribute to health and safety concerns.
On average, St. Cloud’s families spend 2% of their income on energy. But averages only tell part of the story. When it comes to energy burden, there are wide disparities in what different households experience. Poverty is a big part of that: among households living in poverty, average energy burden is nearly 10% of income, and for some households, energy costs take up more than 30% of household income.
While poverty level is a key contributor to disparities, it is not the only factor. Energy burden has also been shown to be disproportionately high within communities of color. What's more, members of immigrant and refugee communities often confront unique barriers (such as limited English proficiency) to accessing information and programs that can help them reduce their energy burden.
That's why, during the spring of 2021, Community Grassroots Solutions, an organization led by and serving the St. Cloud's East African community, partnered with CERTs to increase community members’ knowledge of energy efficiency and assistance programs. The effort was in keeping with CGS's mission to elevate immigrants and refugee communities from poverty and vulnerability to self-sufficiency and to help local communities move forward together.