Washington, D.C. – As home heating and electricity prices skyrocket, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Chris Coons (D-DE) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Energy to quickly release funds through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and State Energy Program (SEP). The bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law in November included $3.5 billion for WAP and $500 million for SEP.
“As you know, Americans face the potential for significantly increased home heating bills this winter, particularly if prolonged cold snaps challenge constrained supplies for natural gas, propane, heating oil and other energy sources,” the Senators wrote. “Weatherization is a critically important tool to partner with Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding to help families avoid financial hardship caused by increased energy costs. The State Energy Program provides crucial funding and technical assistance to states that allow for the implementation of clean energy projects, improve the energy efficiency of public buildings and hospitals and foster energy innovation in the private sector.”
“The $3.5 billion provided in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for WAP and the $500 million for the State Energy Program are also critical job creators for our states. As the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report shows, the energy sector was hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic with more than 839,000 jobs lost in this sector in 2020,” continued the Senators. “Prior to the pandemic, we saw an energy sector growing at a rate faster than the economy as a whole. This was especially true for energy efficiency, which employs more than 2 million Americans, often through small businesses. With the investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law, jobs in energy efficiency and other parts of the energy sector are primed for growth.”
The EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook reports households nationwide will spend more on energy this winter compared with the past several winters due to higher energy prices. Maine is disproportionally affected by this rise in cost since 60 percent of Maine’s households use fuel oil as their primary energy source for home heating, compared to only four percent of households nationally. A typical Maine household will spend nearly $1,000 more this year on home heating oil.
Senator Collins was one of the 10 Senators who negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure package that includes an historic $3.5 billion for WAP, which helps low-income families make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes that cut their energy bills. For every dollar invested by WAP, $4.50 is generated in combined energy savings and non-energy benefits such as job creation. She has previously urged the Administration to quickly release this critical funding. Senator Collins also secured $500 million for SEP, which enhances energy security, advances state-led energy initiatives, and maximizes the benefits of decreasing energy waste.
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins has also long led the effort to fully fund the LIHEAP program – a critical lifeline that helps prevent low-income families and seniors from having to make the impossible choice between paying for heat or buying food or medicine. As a result of her efforts this year, Maine will receive $35 million in LIHEAP funding to help households keep warm during the long winter months.
Click HERE to read Senators Collins and Shaheen’s letter.