Washington, D.C. — Seeking to help vulnerable populations afford their heating and air conditioning during months of extreme temperatures, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) sent letters to the leadership of two Appropriations Subcommittees urging them to provide robust funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
In a letter to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee leadership, the Senators asked for their continued support of LIHEAP and their adoption of the highest possible funding level for the program in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
“LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months,” the Senators wrote. “LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine. Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors.”
In a separate letter to Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee leadership, Senators Collins and Reed asked for their continued support of WAP, which helps low-income households make energy efficiency improvements, and the State Energy Program (SEP), which funds state initiatives to improve energy security, increase local energy efficiency, and boost economic growth.
“Energy savings are only a portion of the benefits from weatherization,” the Senators wrote. “Children in weatherized households miss less school, improving educational outcomes. Adults miss less work, increasing both their own incomes and their contributions to economic growth. Families also experience fewer asthma symptoms and emergency room visits, decreasing out-of-pocket medical expenses by an average of $514. WAP also leverages additional non-federal funds, while supporting over 8,500 jobs and increasing national economic output by $1.2 billion.”
Senators Collins and Reed have worked to block attempts to pare back funding appropriated for LIHEAP and WAP, securing $3.7 billion for LIHEAP and $254 million for WAP in the FY 2019 funding bill. In October, Senators Collins and Reed led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for LIHEAP as quickly as possible under the current continuing resolution. In April, Senators Collins and Reed, as well as Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced legislation that would reauthorize WAP through 2024.
Nearly 28,000 Maine households receive assistance benefits each heating season. The average annual LIHEAP benefit to Maine households that use the program is $918. Benefit amounts are based on each household’s income level, family size, whether they live in subsidized or non-subsidized housing, and the type of fuel used for heating.