WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help families stay safe in extreme temperatures and provide assistance to households struggling with energy bills, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI), the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators in urging President Obama to include robust funding in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and the State Energy Program (SEP).
In a letter sent to the President, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, Senators Collins, Reed and 38 of their colleagues are urging the Administration to fund LIHEAP at no less than $4.7 billion in their FY 2017 budget proposal.
“LIHEAP provides vital assistance to low income households, seniors, and veterans in both the cold winter and hot summer months by helping with their energy bills. According to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association, more than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households include at least one veteran,” the letter reads. “This funding continues to be a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Moreover, as some parts of our country continue to face rising energy costs, LIHEAP helps to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine.”
Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Collins and Reed, and together they have worked to repel attempts to pare back the program. Collins and Reed are particularly concerned the current funding level for LIHEAP is able to serve just 20 percent of the eligible population, and they noted that those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced.
In a second letter sent to the President and Administration officials, Senators Collins, Reed and 33 of their colleagues are also urging that WAP and SEP be strongly funded in FY 2017, as the programs have been working successfully to reduce the burden of high energy prices permanently for more than thirty years by helping families and state governments make necessary improvements to their homes and facilities. Senators Collins and Reed successfully secured an increase of $22 million for WAP in the FY 2016 Omnibus spending bill passed last month.
“Many low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities have used WAP to make lasting and cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to their homes. WAP has helped to reduce the burden of high energy prices for more than three decades,” the letter reads. “The State Energy Program also has a history of success working across all sectors of the economy and supplying cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.”
According to the Department of Energy, to date, more than 7.4 million homes have been weatherized through WAP. Weatherization saves low-income families an average of $250 to $450 per year in heating, cooling, and electric costs, depending on their housing type, location, and fuel source.
WAP also supports thousands of high quality jobs. The National Association of State Community Services Programs estimates there are around 8,000 highly skilled jobs in the weatherization network, with countless more supplied in related U.S. businesses, including materials suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers that make more than 90 percent of the products used in weatherization. WAP has helped the construction industry and given a boost to U.S. manufacturers and small businesses during challenging economic times.
The last comprehensive study of the SEP program by Oak Ridge National Lab showed that each federal dollar invested in SEP is leveraged by nearly $1 in state and private funds, and results in more than $4.10 in annual energy savings.