Markey, Larson, DeLauro, Welch, McGovern Introduce Increase in Low-Income Energy Assistance

Crisis for New England Families Approaches As Heating Oil Prices, Demand for Help Remain High
WASHINGTON (February 15, 2012) – A perfect storm of international unrest driving oil prices towards record highs, continued economic hardship for American families and record high demand for home energy assistance could result in a serious home energy crisis for millions of Americans this year and beyond. In response to this looming threat, and to the continued under-funding of energy assistance programs, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) yesterday introduced H.R. 4026, the Energy Assistance for American Families Act, which would increase the level of funding for and expand availability to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, expanding a vital safety net for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households and millions of American families.
New England winters are often severe, but with budget cuts threatening programs that serve the neediest, including LIHEAP, this could be an historically harsh winter,” said Rep. Markey, top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and dean of the New England House delegation. “House Republicans have already shown that they will protect tax breaks for the very rich. Now let’s see if they’ll protect this program for the very poor. Will Republicans just support the companies who drill for oil, or will they also support the families who need heating oil? The Energy Assistance for American Families Act will ensure no household is left in the cold during these tough economic times.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
The Energy Assistance for American Families Act would increase the authorized funding level for LIHEAP to $7.6 billion per year for fiscal years 2013 to 2016, an increase of $2.5 billion over the last authorized level, enacted in 2005. The bill would also extend the expanded eligibility levels that were included in the omnibus appropriations bills for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 – giving states the option of helping families with incomes up to 75 percent of the state median income level. Overall demand for LIHEAP support is rising, in large part due to the economic downturn. Increasing the LIHEAP funding level will allow states to meet this increased demand and continue to provide meaningful aid.
According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), states assisted 8.9 million households through LIHEAP last year – a 54 percent increase in the number of households served in 2008. Energy prices are also on the rise, with the average household expenditures on heating oil this winter expected to increase to $2,326 from $1,801 in 2008-2009.
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