Efforts to elevate the conversation around the importance of the LIHEAP program continue. Below is the text of a letter sent to Senator T. Cochran (R-MS, Chairman) and Senator B. Mikulski (D-MD, Ranking Member) of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is signed by 38 fellow Senate colleagues, supporting increased funding for LIHEAP. Sen. S. Collins (R-ME) and Sen. J. Reed (D-RI) have always been strong bipartisan champions of the program, and we again thank them for their willingness to push for the prioritization of the program as final allocation of funds begins in the Committee. [The corresponding press release precedes the letter text and list of participating Members.]
The following press release is also available in full on Senator Reed’s website.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 10, 2015
CONTACT: Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642
Annie Clark (Collins), 202-224-2523
Collins, Reed Lead Bipartisan Call to Increase Funding for Winter Heating & Weatherization Assistance
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help provide as much assistance as possible to households struggling to afford their winter heating bills, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) are once again leading a bipartisan push to increase the amount of available federal heating assistance for low-income families and seniors in the final appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2016.
In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Collins and Reed led a group of 36 senators in urging the appropriations leaders to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) this fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $3.39 billion for LIHEAP in its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, which is the same amount that was provided in FY 2015, and $197 million for WAP in its Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which is $7 million more than the level provided in FY 2015. However, in their letter, the Senators say the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the available funding for the program, which saw cuts in past years, necessitating increased investment in the program.
“Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors. The LIHEAP program remains an important lifeline that helps prevent people from having to choose between heating their home, paying their bills, or going without food or medicine. In addition, the Weatherization program helps low-income families and seniors to permanently reduce their home energy bills. We must ensure that these critical programs are adequately funded and able to help our most vulnerable citizens,”said Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee.
“LIHEAP is an important program that provides a vital safety net for Rhode Island’s low-income households, disabled individuals, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes, and we need to ensure that this support will remain available at the appropriate level for all families in need as the cold winter months approach. The WAP program has also helped low-income residents make lasting and cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to their homes and reduce the burden of high energy prices for more than three decades. We need robust funding for these complementary programs, which help many Rhode Island families stay afloat,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee.
Funding for LIHEAP and Weatherization is a perennial bipartisan priority for Collins and Reed, and together they have worked to support these critical programs. Last month, Collins and Reed announced an initial disbursement of funding totaling $3.01 billion to states for LIHEAP, including $34.8 million for Maine and $23.3 million for Rhode Island. The funding was made available under the current FY 2016 Continuing Resolution (CR), which expires onDecember 11, 2015. In their letter, Reed and Collins are advocating for increased funding levels in the final appropriations bill, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks and will dictate funding for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
November 6, 2015
Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Mikulski:
We write in strong support of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and to urge you to increase funding for both of these important programs in the final appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2016.
Given the fiscal constraints, we appreciate the $3.390 billion for LIHEAP that was included in the Senate committee-approved Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, which is same the amount that was provided in FY 2015. We are increasingly concerned, however, that the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available LIHEAP funding. LIHEAP provides a vital safety net for our nation’s low-income households, disabled individuals, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, 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. The average LIHEAP grant now covers just a fraction of average home energy costs, leaving many low-income families and seniors struggling to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and having fewer resources available to meet other essential needs. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has noted that more than twenty percent – one in five – of American households were behind on their energy bill coming into this winter.
We also appreciate the $197 million provided for the WAP in the Senate committee-approved Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which is $7 million more than the level provided in FY 2015. The WAP has helped low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities make lasting and cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to their homes and reduce the burden of high energy prices for more than three decades. To date, more than 7.3 million homes have been weatherized. This has directly resulted in providing as much as $450 in savings on a household’s annual energy bill. WAP also supports thousands of high quality jobs. The National Association of State Community Services Programs has estimated that there are about 10,000 highly skilled jobs in the weatherization network, with countless more supported in related businesses including materials suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers.
No family in our nation should be forced to choose between paying an energy bill and putting food on the table. No senior citizen should have to decide between buying life-saving prescriptions and paying utility bills. For individuals and households that may have to face these difficult choices, LIHEAP makes a real difference in their ability to cope with adverse circumstances. Similarly, WAP is helping to reduce energy consumption and permanently reduce the burden of home energy prices on low-income families.
As you consider a final appropriations bill for FY 2016, we urge you to please consider increasing funding for LIHEAP and WAP. Thank you for your long-time support of both programs and your consideration of this important request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to support these vital programs.