Senators urge Administration to prioritize program that provides energy assistance for low-income households
Washington, D.C. – In a bipartisan effort to help vulnerable populations afford heating and cooling costs during months of extreme temperatures, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) authored a letter urging President Biden to include full funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the Administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal. Senators Collins and Reed’s letter was signed by 29 Senators, including Senator Angus King (I-ME).
“LIHEAP is a crucial lifeline for many Americans, helping low income households, seniors, and veterans with their energy bills in both the cold winter and hot summer months,” the Senators wrote. “LIHEAP continues to provide vital assistance for some of our most vulnerable households and is a critical tool in our efforts to ensure that Americans do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities, such as food or medicine.”
“We are deeply concerned that the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available funding, while the program’s buying power has decreased because of increasing energy costs. Current funding is able to serve just one in six of all eligible households, potentially leaving up to 26 million American households unserved,” the Senators continued. “As the economic picture has worsened due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the number of families falling behind in paying their utility bills is growing.”
Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Senators Collins and Reed, who have worked together to prevent funding cuts to the program. Last year, the Senators urged the White House to reverse the transfer of $37 million in funding for LIHEAP to combat the coronavirus and to release funds for the program quickly at the highest level possible. In addition, 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 $43 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 33,000 Maine households receive assistance benefits each heating season. 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 by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Carper (D-DE).
Click HERE to read the full letter.