Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) issued the following statement in response to the White House transfer of $37 million in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to combat the coronavirus:
“Our priority is keeping people safe and healthy, but taking money from LIHEAP would have the opposite impact. As a result of this $37 million cut, seniors and vulnerable families could be left out in the cold.
“Diverting LIHEAP dollars that people depend on in the middle of winter is not the right approach. There are better ways to dedicate the necessary resources to protect Americans from the coronavirus threat. We should speed needed coronavirus assistance through an emergency appropriation, not divert needed funds from LIHEAP and other public health priorities.
“LIHEAP is essential to millions of families who would otherwise be forced to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for food or medicine.
“As members of the Appropriations Committee, we are working with our colleagues to quickly pass a supplemental funding bill that will strengthen the government’s response to the public health threat posed by the coronavirus without reallocating funding from other key programs.”
The Administration has repeatedly proposed eliminating LIHEAP, but Senators Collins and Reed have successfully led the effort to fund the program at $3.7 billion. As a result of their efforts, Maine households have already received $36 million in LIHEAP assistance, and Rhode Islanders in need received $21.6 million, which is ninety percent of their allocations for the fiscal year.