WASHINGTON – With colder weather around the corner and energy costs projected to increase this winter, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) have joined U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and a bipartisan group of 32 of their colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) swiftly and at the highest level possible.
Federal 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.
“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,” the senators wrote.
Nationwide, an estimated 5.3 million households received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP in 2020. The average cost of home heating is unaffordable for millions of low-income households, costing over $900 per year nationally.
With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas, and other fuels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting increasing prices for home heating this winter. The EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook reports households nationwide could see their heating bills jump as much as 54 percent over last winter.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills by providing payment and/or energy crisis assistance to pay for gas, electric, and other methods customers use to heat their homes. LIHEAP is administered by states and accessed through local Community Action Agencies. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.
Senior citizens and those receiving Social Security Disability or SSI benefits are encouraged to apply as early as possible, but applications will be open to everyone through spring of 2022 — or until the funding is exhausted.
In addition to Klobuchar, Smith, Reed, and Collins, the bipartisan letter was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Warner (D-VA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
Full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Secretary Becerra:
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.
# # #