Collins, Reed & Colleagues Urge Trump to Boost Funding for Heating Assistance & Weatherization Programs

45 Senators urge Trump Administration to prioritize funding for programs that reduce home energy costs for low-income households in FY 2019 budget

Washington, D.C. – In a continued effort to provide heating aid and help struggling families reduce their energy bills, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI), who helm the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators urging President Trump to include robust funding in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

 

In a letter to President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, Senators Collins, Reed, and 43 of their colleagues noted the bipartisan support behind both LIHEAP and WAP and described the critical role both programs play in providing vulnerable populations and low-income households with affordable home energy.

 

“LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months,” the letter reads.  “More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.  Additionally, according to the most recently available data, the percentage of households receiving LIHEAP that have at least one veteran is 20 percent.  This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.”

 

Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Collins and Reed, who in recent years have worked together to prevent funding cuts to the program.  The letter notes that current number of houses eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.

 

Last October, Collins and Reed helped secure funding under the FY 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) totaling over $3 billion nationally for LIHEAP and nearly $35 million for Maine and $22.4 million for Rhode Island.

 

The letter also emphasizes the importance of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which has helped reduce the burden of high energy prices for more than forty years by helping low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities make necessary energy efficient improvements to their homes.  Since its introduction, WAP has helped to reduce the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households.  Maine and Rhode Island households received nearly 3.1 million and nearly $1.2 million in WAP funds respectively for FY 2016 as part of over $223 million allocated to states.  Since 2010, Maine has received $18.6 million and Rhode Island has received $7 million in WAP funding and has been able to successfully weatherize more than 1,900 and 1,300 homes and rental units across the state, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). 

 

“By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of dwellings, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance,” the letter continues.

 

“Access to affordable home energy during the cold winter months is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors in Maine and across the country,” said Senator Collins.  “The LIHEAP program prevents individuals from having to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for food or medicine.  In addition, by boosting energy efficiency, the Weatherization Assistance Program is a cost-effective way to reduce energy usage and cut low-income homeowners’ energy bills for the long-term.”

 

“LIHEAP and WAP help thousands of Rhode Islanders stay warm and safe.  There are people, particularly low-income seniors, who would freeze without LIHEAP.  By continuing to invest in these vital programs, we are ensuring that vulnerable citizens can safely make it throughout the coldest and warmest months,” said Senator Reed.  “I will continue fighting President Trump’s short-sighted efforts to eliminate these smart energy assistance initiatives.  I am proud we once again have bipartisan support for robust funding for both programs.  We must ensure low-income households don’t have to choose between paying high energy bills and paying for other necessities like food and medicine.”

 

Other Senators who signed the letter include: Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Angus King (I-ME), Gary Peters (D-WI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write in support of two successful federal programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which are currently helping to meet the energy needs of eligible low-income households across the country.  Cold weather and winter storms across the United States have once again highlighted the importance of affordable access to home energy as a matter of health and safety for more than six million low-income households, children, veterans, seniors, and Indian tribes.  LIHEAP and WAP have long enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that you will prioritize funding for both programs in your fiscal year 2019 budget proposal. 

 

LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months.  More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.  Additionally, according to the most recently available data, the percentage of households receiving LIHEAP that have at least one veteran is 20 percent.  This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise more than 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income.  Unfortunately, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.     

 

WAP is another important initiative, which for more than 40 years has helped to reduce the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households.  By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance.  WAP has been repeatedly demonstrated as cost-effective and has supported thousands of high quality, skilled jobs.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that weatherization saves eligible single-family homes on average $283 in annual energy cost savings, which benefits not only the household but also boosts the local economy.  And in cold weather states, weatherization has reduced heating bills by 30 percent on average.

 

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.  We recognize the ongoing challenges facing the discretionary budget and look forward to working with you to support these vital programs and ensuring access to affordable home energy for the most vulnerable households in every state.

 

Sincerely,