Oct. 20, 2011: Reps Call For Immediate Release of Home Heating Funds

With home heating fuel prices expected to rise this winter, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers sends letter to DHHS urging release of LIHEAP funding to help households prepare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Department of Energy (DOE) reporting an increase in the price for most heating fuels this winter, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), John B. Larson (D-Conn.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) today sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately release as much LIHEAP funding as possible under the current continuing resolution which expires November 18, 2011. With continued uncertainty over the final FY2012 funding levels for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), release of these funds means states will have the opportunity to help those with greatest needs now.

The DOE’s Energy Information Agency projects average household home heating oil expenditures will increase eight percent and reach record highs this winter. The EIA also forecasts increases of three percent for consumers heating with natural gas and seven percent for those using propane. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association anticipates 9.4 million households will seek assistance with their energy costs through the LIHEAP program this winter, up from 8.9 million last year. The funding level of $3.4 billion for LIHEAP in the draft House Labor HHS appropriations bill for the remainder of FY2012 would allow assistance for only seven million households.

New England winters are often severe, but with impending budget cuts to programs that serve the neediest, including LIHEAP, this could be an historically harsh winter,” said Rep. Markey. “Releasing LIHEAP funds now will mean that households can plan for heating and eating this winter and during these tough economic times. We also must ensure that LIHEAP remains fully funded for the next fiscal year, as millions of American families continue to struggle to make ends meet. As we debate next year’s budget and the Super Committee continues its work, we need to ensure full funding for this vital program is included while pressing for continued action to help American families."

“LIHEAP is absolutely essential to helping families stay warm in the winter,” said Rep. McGovern.  “It’s a program that works and that deserves adequate funding.”

“I sincerely hope that any existing heating funds will be released as soon as possible to states so struggling families can heat their homes while Washington finishes the budget process,” said Rep. LaTourette.

“As we approach another harsh New England winter it is imperative that we make sure that those in our community who need energy assistance the most are not left out in the cold,” said Rep. Larson. “The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has played a major role in ensuring that low-income families are able to meet their home energy needs for years and, at a time when so many are still suffering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we expect the demand to once again be high. I strongly urge Secretary Sebelius and the Obama administration to release as much LIHEAP funding as possible, as quickly as possible so that nobody in our community goes without the energy assistance they need.”

“Even in good economic times, LIHEAP is a critical lifeline for countless Vermonters,” said Rep. Welch. “Now, with wages stagnate, a tough economy, rising fuel prices and Vermonters struggling to recover from Tropical Storm Irene, it is even more critical. Winter is upon us in the northeast and we need to get the money to those who need it now.”

A copy of the letter to DHHS can be found HERE.