Washington, D.C. - As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the upcoming winter months, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators in urging 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 a letter sent to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas E. Price, Senators Collins and Reed, along with 36 of their colleagues, including Senator King, are urging the Department to release LIHEAP funds without delay and at as high a level as possible under the continuing resolution.
“LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months,” the letter reads. “This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average, low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.”
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. The current funding level for LIHEAP is able to serve just 20 percent of the eligible population, and the senators noted that those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced. While President Trump’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposed cutting LIHEAP entirely, Senators Collins and Reed led the effort to secure $3.39 billion - level with FY 2017 - for LIHEAP in the FY18 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Bill.
“Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors in Maine. The LIHEAP program remains an important lifeline that helps prevent people from having to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for other necessities like food or medicine,” said Senator Collins. “It is critical that Department of Health and Human Services release these funds promptly so that our most vulnerable citizens have the resources to stay warm and healthy this winter.”
“As winter approaches, now is the critical moment to ensure low-income families and elderly citizens can keep warm during the season’s low temperatures,” Senator King said. “No one should have to choose between food, medicine, or a warm home, which is why LIHEAP is such an important source of assistance to nearly 50,000 people in Maine. There’s no time for the Department of Health and Human Services to waste – we need to ensure funding from this program is disbursed quickly.”
In addition to Collins, Reed, and King, the letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Edward Markey (D-MA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Casey (D-PA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).
According to statistics from the Administration for Children and Families, an estimated 6 million households receive assistance with heating costs through LIHEAP, and all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and over 150 tribes and tribal organizations receive LIHEAP grants each year.
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Thomas Price
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
330 C St SW
Washington, D.C. 20416
Dear Secretary Price:
As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the winter, we respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.
LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average, low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.
As the relevant state agencies begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.
We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.