Duckworth, Durbin Join Feinstein, Colleagues To Seek Funding for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with 37 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as quickly and at the highest level possible under the current continuing resolution. LIHEAP funding is a crucial lifeline that assists low-income households and seniors on fixed incomes pay their energy bills and stay safe during the winter. HHS typically releases 90 percent of the $3.7 billion full year appropriation under a continuing resolution.
“As the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, LIHEAP provides critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. October marks the start of the heating season for many states and low-income families and seniors will be facing additional strains on their household budgets. In addition, millions of lowincome families, including seniors, are facing new and severe financial hardship due to the coronavirus, making the assistance provided through LIHEAP more important than ever,” the Senators wrote.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills by providing payment and/or energy crisis assistance. The average cost of home heating is unaffordable for millions of low-income households, costing an average of $911 per year nationally. The timely release of these funds will provide critical assistance to families unemployed as a result of the pandemic pay their energy bills. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills. As of July 31, 2020, the estimated resulting electric arrearages are between $8 billion and $9.9 billion and natural gas arrearages are between $975 million and $1.3 billion.
Along with Duckworth, Durbin and Feinstein, the bipartisan letter was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Secretary Azar:
With passage of the continuing resolution, we write to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to release Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at the highest level possible.
As the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, LIHEAP provides critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. October marks the start of the heating season for many states and low-income families and seniors will be facing additional strains on their household budgets. In addition, millions of low-income families, including seniors, are facing new and severe financial hardship due to the coronavirus, making the assistance provided through LIHEAP more important than ever.
As state agencies work to prepare their LIHEAP programs for the coming winter, it is crucial that they have the resources they need to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible, especially in light of the current health crisis. As such, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds at the highest level possible to allow states to prepare for the upcoming season, so that low-income households do not have to choose between paying for heat and affording other necessities like food or medicine.
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.
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