According to the Maricopa County Public Health Department, more than 300 people lost their lives due to the heat last year, continuing an alarming upward trend in the region. There have been 16 confirmed heat-related deaths this year, with 138 additional deaths under investigation. The Heat Relief Network provides relief by offering cooling centers, hydration stations, and bottled water to those suffering in the extreme temperatures. Heat relief locations can be found on MAG’s interactive mobile-friendly map, available online at the Heat Relief Network.

The $50,000 sponsorship is part of the Arizona Lottery’s Gives Back sponsorship program. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars from Arizona Lottery ticket sales go to programs and organizations doing good in four key areas: higher education, health and human services, environmental conservation, and economic and business development. The money will be used to purchase more than 15,000 cases of bottled water. The MAG Regional Council voted to accept the funds in June.

“The Arizona Lottery’s contribution helps fill an urgent need to provide relief for people, such as those experiencing homelessness and homebound older adults,” says MAG Chair John Giles, mayor of Mesa. “All heat-related deaths are preventable, and this contribution will make a difference.”

The Arizona Lottery noted that funds for this Gives Back sponsorship are in addition and apart from monies to be transferred by Lottery to Lottery beneficiaries under its statutory obligations, and are the result of increased ticket sales.

“Every year Arizonans endure the oppressive and sometimes dangerous heat that characterizes our summer months,” said Arizona Lottery Executive Director Gregg Edgar. “This year has been especially challenging, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and record-breaking high temperatures. The Arizona Lottery is proud to partner with the Maricopa Association of Governments, whose Heat Relief Network of government agencies, charitable organizations, faith-based groups, civic-minded businesses and individuals is working hard to get life-saving bottled water and other heat-mitigation assistance into the hands of those who need it most but can least afford it.”

Coronavirus restrictions and a record number of days in the triple digits took a toll on relief efforts last year. In 2020, there were only 64 heat relief stations across the region offering water and refuge compared to 142 locations the previous year. Water donations also were down, with only 42 collection sites available compared to 90 in 2019.

The agencies selected to receive $10,000 each in water donations include Community Bridges Inc., the Salvation Army, City of Phoenix, City of Tolleson, and Phoenix Rescue Mission.

To meet growing needs, MAG is expanding the network. New partners are encouraged to join as a cooling center, which is an air-conditioned building where people can get out of the heat and cool down; as a hydration station, which is an indoor or outdoor location that provides water; or by collecting donations for the network. Partners can sign up on the Heat Relief Network. For tips that everyone can take to avoid heat-related illness, click here.