Markey Leads Bipartisan Coalition of 43 Senators Seeking to Boost LIHEAP Fuel Assistance

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help provide fuel assistance to households struggling with their winter heating bills, U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey, (D-MA) Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are leading the effort to restore and increase federal heating assistance to low-income families and seniors to past years’ levels.

Today, Markey, Reed and Collins led a bipartisan coalition of 43 U.S. Senators in urging the President to provide Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at no less than $4.7 billion.  Last year, Senators Reed and Collins successfully led the 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.  The (FY) 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by Congress this week provides $3.39 billion in LIHEAP funding through September 30, 2015.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months.  LIHEAP households are among the most vulnerable in the country.  According to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association, more than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households include at least one veteran.

The current funding level is able to serve just 20 percent of the eligible population, and those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced by nearly $100 since 2010, from $520 in FY 2010 to $424 in FY 2014.  With the average LIHEAP grant estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, many low-income families and seniors will struggle to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and will have fewer resources available to meet other essential needs.

 

Text of the letter is provided below:

December 19, 2014

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

 

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

 

We are writing to request that you prioritize the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget proposal by including no less than $4.7 billion for this program that provides critical support to our most vulnerable citizens.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. LIHEAP households are among the most vulnerable in the country. According to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association, more than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households include at least one veteran. For these households, LIHEAP funding has been a lifeline during challenging economic times. Access to affordable home energy is not a luxury. It is a matter of health and safety.

 

We understand the ongoing discretionary budget challenges. However, we are deeply concerned that the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available funding while the average cost of home heating is expected to remain unaffordable for millions of households nationwide. In fact, the current funding level is able to serve just 20 percent of the eligible population, and those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced by nearly $100 since 2010, from $520 in FY 2010 to $424 in FY 2014.

 

Additionally, the purchasing power of LIHEAP has declined in recent years. Since FY 2010, the average LIHEAP grant has fallen from about 60 percent to 44 percent of the cost of home heating. For households using delivered fuels, this decline is even more dramatic, covering just 18 percent of heating oil and propane costs. With the average LIHEAP grant estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, many low-income families and seniors will struggle to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and will have fewer resources available to meet other essential needs.

 

As you finalize your FY 2016 budget request, we ask that you take into account the high demand for LIHEAP assistance. We urge you to reprioritize this program within your FY 2016 budget and restore funding to this program to a level no less than $4.7 billion.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Jack Reed

Susan Collins

Sherrod Brown

Kelly Ayotte

Edward Markey

Lisa Murkowski

Bernard Sanders

Sheldon Whitehouse

Tom Udall

Amy Klobuchar

Jeff Merkley

Tammy Baldwin

Richard Blumenthal

Mazie Hirono

Angus King

Jeanne Shaheen

Al Franken

Kirsten Gillibrand

Carl Levin

Mark Pryor

Mark Begich

Kay Hagan

Robert Casey

John Walsh

Mary Landrieu

John Rockefeller

Chris Coons

Patrick Leahy

Tim Johnson

Joe Manchin

Richard Durbin

Brian Schatz

Elizabeth Warren

Cory Booker

Robert Menendez

Dianne Feinstein

Chris Murphy

Debbie Stabenow

Charles Schumer

Tim Kaine

Ron Wyden

Maria Cantwell

Jon Tester