WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help millions of low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes afford their energy bills this coming winter, a bipartisan group of 46 U.S. Senators, led by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI), are calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to quickly release as much federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) heating aid as possible.
Today, the Senators sent a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, urging her to release LIHEAP funds without delay and at as high a level as possible. Last year, Senators Reed and Collins successfully led the bipartisan effort to increase funding for LIHEAP by $169 million as part of the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which the President signed into law in January. In April, Reed and Collins renewed their call to protect LIHEAP funding for those in need of heating assistance, and urged the leaders of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to fund LIHEAP at no less than $4.7 billion in FY 2015.
"The LIHEAP program is one of our most effective tools to help low-income senior citizens and families in Maine keep warm during the winter," said Senator Collins. "As energy costs have increased, LIHEAP funding has been an important lifeline that helps prevent people from having to choose between heating their home, paying their bills, or going without food or medicine."
“It’s October now, but winter will be here before we know it. It’s critical to quickly get these federal funds out to ensure Rhode Islanders in need won’t be left in the cold when temperatures drop. LIHEAP is a lifeline that helps people save on their heating and cooling costs. This federal funding will help cover a portion of energy costs for vulnerable households, particularly those with children and seniors, and I urge Secretary Burwell to quickly release as much of these funds as she can so that communities can properly prepare for the coming winter months,” said Senator Reed.
Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Reed and Collins, and together they have pushed back on attempts in recent years to pare back the funding appropriated for this critical program.
LIHEAP funding proved especially important last winter, when many areas of the country experienced record cold, above-average snowfall, and an extended winter season that produced snowfall events into late March. The letter sent to Secretary Burwell today seeks to help communities across the country understand as soon as possible what level of federal assistance they can count on in the coming months as they plan ahead for whatever winter brings this season.
Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.
The text of the letter follows:
October 2, 2014
Dear Secretary Burwell:
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.
Johnson, Tim (D-SD)