Washington, D.C. – As state agencies prepare to assist low-income homeowners and renters with heating their homes in the upcoming winter months, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) led a bipartisan coalition of senators in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) quickly at the highest level possible under the current continuing resolution. Forty bipartisan Senators signed on to the letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, including Senator Angus King (I-ME).
In addition to securing $3.7 billion in LIHEAP in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations law, Senators Collins and Reed also led the successful effort to include $900 million for LIHEAP in the CARES Act.
“During our long winters, vulnerable Mainers rely on the LIHEAP program to keep warm during the colder months,” said Senator Collins. “This funding will help ensure that low-income families and seniors do not have to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for food or medicine. As we combat the ongoing public health and economic crisis, it’s important that the Administration move quickly to distribute these critical funds appropriated by Congress.”
Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Senators Collins and Reed, who have worked together to prevent funding cuts to the program. In February, the Senators urged the White House to reverse the transfer of $37 million in funding for LIHEAP to combat the coronavirus. In May, Senator Collins secured $3 million in additional LIHEAP funding for Maine, helping low-income households pay their energy bills.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that provides eligible low-income households with help paying a portion of their heating and utility bills. Eligibility is based on a household’s combined income as well as the number of residents. In fiscal year 2020, Maine received more than $40 million in LIHEAP funding.
Low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities can get help paying their winter heating bills by applying for LIHEAP through their local Community Action Agency. Nearly 31,000 Maine households receive assistance benefits each heating season. The average annual LIHEAP benefit to Maine households that use the program is $895. 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.
In addition to Senators Collins, Reed, and King, the letter was signed Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
Click HERE to read the full letter.