As a mom, I know that parents have an increasingly difficult job in today’s world. The economic pressures, the time demands, and the many outside influences that affect even the youngest children – all of these, and more, make this an especially challenging time for American families.
All parents want to protect their children and make sure they have the best possible chance to grow up and succeed in life. Too many Minnesota families are struggling to make ends meet – squeezed by unemployment, rising health care costs, soaring home mortgage payments, and mounting bills for child care and college tuition. And an ever-increasing number of people find themselves simultaneously bearing the responsibility of caring for their aging parents while also raising their own children.
Immigrants are an important part of our communities, especially in Minnesota. Immigrant families don’t diminish America, they define America. They strengthen America. They are America. While border security must be a priority, we cannot afford to shut out the world’s talent or drive away those who call our country home.
Ultimately, our national well-being – our economic prosperity and our quality of life – depends on the strength of our families. We must support strong families and make sure parents have the tools they need to protect their children and do what's best for them.
I will continue to work to make sure that our children grow up healthy and safe, and that all of our families have the resources they need to deal successfully with today's challenges.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. We must foster economic growth and good jobs that benefit Minnesota families by strengthening our commitment to education and training, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, supporting our small businesses, reforming our tax policies, addressing our nation’s debt, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and responsibly reducing red tape. This includes focusing on jobs, wages, and affordable health care, child care, and housing.
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family, and medical leave. Minnesota is a leader when it comes to supporting working families. I support providing paid sick days and paid family and medical leave at the federal level so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck for the birth of a child, to care for an elderly parent, or to get treatment for a serious health condition. In addition, we must make sure that affordable, quality childcare and early education options are available to all American families.
- Expanding higher education opportunities. Minnesotans have always believed that investing in higher education pays extraordinary dividends. But skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. The cost of college has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. It is no surprise that student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. U.S. student debt has increased to over $1.5 trillion, with the average undergraduate leaving school with $37,000 in debt. It is time to provide real help for students and their families to make college more affordable. I am fighting to gain stronger federal support for higher education opportunities – because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable. We also must do a better job of preparing students for the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate – positions that may not require a Ph.D. or even a four-year degree, but nonetheless demand specialized training and experience. Credentials and one- and two-year degrees offered by community and technical colleges may often be a better option for students who plan on entering the skilled workforce immediately after graduation. We must make these degrees a more central focus of our higher education system.
- Treating immigrants with fairness and compassion. When I first got to the Senate in 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy asked Senator Whitehouse and me to be members of the immigration reform working group, and I was proud to work with Senator Kennedy on that bipartisan effort. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I was part of the successful effort to pass the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate that included a pathway to citizenship, prioritized enforcement of existing laws, addressed border security, provided for reforms to our visa system, and also included the DREAM Act. It would have also decreased the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years. I took the lead in ensuring that the bill included provisions to help protect immigrant victims of domestic violence by allowing women in the U.S. with spouses on temporary visas to petition for independent immigration status—encouraging them to come forward and receive the assistance they need. No one should be forced to remain in an abusive relationship due to fear of losing their legal status, and that is why I worked to pass my amendment in the Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote. Unfortunately, despite President Obama’s support, the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill was not allowed a vote in the House.
We must continue working in a bipartisan fashion to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which is crucial to moving our country and our economy forward—and which is one of my top priorities in the Senate. However, instead of moving forward to do that, this Administration has gone in the wrong direction. I have disagreed with this Administration’s divisive rhetoric as well as its harmful decisions to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); separate immigrant children from their parents at the border; deny hearings for asylum-seekers; propose denying citizenship to some immigrant children born in America; terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for several countries; and end Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Liberians, whose protections date back to President George H.W. Bush.
I will continue to seek solutions—and oppose policies that hurt our communities, our economy, and our country. Since the Administration’s decision to end DACA, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect DREAMers and I will not stop working to find a solution to help our DREAMers and secure a path to citizenship for so many other immigrants.
- Protecting children from unsafe products. Parents should be able to trust that the products they buy for their children are safe. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe are vigilant in doing their job to protect all consumers from hazardous products.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the Internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety. I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is essential for local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders and other potential predators can be identified before they are able to prey on any victims.
- Ensuring our children are healthy and receive proper nutrition. Our children need proper nutrition so that they grow into healthy and active adults. Childhood obesity has become a national health issue, with an estimated one out of every three children in the U.S. between the ages of two and 19 overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Ensuring that children have access to nutritious food is critical not only for their own well-being, but for the well-being of our nation. By promoting healthy lifestyles early, we can combat childhood obesity and improve children’s health across the country.
- Strengthening oversight of court-appointed guardians and long-term care workers. As the population of seniors continues to grow in Minnesota, the need for strong protection from abuse becomes more critical each year. Most long-term care workers adhere to ethical standards that ensure the safety and well-being of their clients, but there are cases when long-term care workers do not have the best interests of seniors in mind. In these instances, too many vulnerable adults are abused and financially exploited by court-appointed guardians and conservators – the very individuals charged with protecting their well-being. We owe it to our seniors to ensure that they are not endangered – physically, emotionally, or financially – by those responsible for their care.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors and those with disabilities. More than half of Americans turning 65 today are projected to need some type of long-term care in their lives. Seniors want to be able to live independently and stay in their own homes as long as possible and family support is essential to making that option available. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our seniors in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers – more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of families coping with the challenges and costs of caring for elderly parents while caring for their own children will continue to grow. Just as the country addressed the needs of working moms and dads in the 1970s, we must now address the needs of our working daughters and sons.
- Supporting families and children through adoption. Like so many Minnesotans, I share the belief that every child should have a safe home and a loving family. As county attorney and now as the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I have worked to expedite adoptions and assist families who are adopting children. Minnesota has a strong tradition of welcoming children from around the world and holds one of the highest per capita rates of international adoption. International adoptions should be as straightforward and affordable as possible for American families. In addition, we must ensure that adoptive families – regardless of whether they are adopting here at home or internationally – have the full support and services they may need throughout the adoption process.
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. The importance of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) cannot be overstated – especially in states like Minnesota that experience bitterly cold temperatures and lengthy winters. I believe that no Minnesota family should have to choose between heating their home and other basic necessities.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I’ve been fighting to support families and children:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. I am fighting to strengthen the middle class by creating jobs, supporting unions, providing training and education, and sustaining families and workers to help them get ahead. In my first year in the Senate, we passed the first federal minimum-wage increase in a decade. Since the passage of this legislation, I have fought for policies aimed at putting more money in the pockets of working Minnesotans, including increasing the minimum wage after more than a decade since the last increase. If we’re going to build a strong middle class, we need to make sure that Americans can work their way into it. I also sponsored the Middle Class Opportunity Act, which would increase tax credits for child and dependent care and help families pay for higher education and support for aging parents. (See Jobs and the Economy section)
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family and medical leave. Minnesota is a leader in providing paid sick leave, paid medical leave and other policies that support working families. I am working to pass these bills on the national level. I cosponsored the Healthy Families Act to provide paid sick leave, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to provide paid family and medical leave, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to protect the rights of pregnant workers. I am also a cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act to make child care more affordable for families and improve training for the child care workforce.
- Making education more affordable by:
- Stopping increases to loan rates. The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans was set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013. That is why I cosponsored the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act and the Student Loan Affordability Act to maintain for at least another year the federal student loan interest rate of 3.4 percent. I also worked to prevent the rate from immediately doubling in the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that was signed into law in 2013.
- Allowing students to refinance loans at lower interest rates. I cosponsored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act and the Reducing Education Debt Act, which take several important steps to address the issue of student debt, including allowing student loan borrowers to refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates and adjusting Pell Grants for inflation so that they keep pace with rising costs.
- Helping students with loan repayment and Pell grants. I worked to pass the College Cost Reduction Act, which created the income-based repayment plan and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and I supported the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which now saves middle-class families up to $2,500 a year on college tuition. I also worked to pass a law removing private lenders from the federal student loan system, which saved taxpayers nearly $68 billion and expanded Pell grants. We also successfully increased the maximum Pell grant award in March of 2018.
- Providing tuition-free access to two-year community, technical, and tribal colleges. I cosponsored the America’s College Promise Act to create a federal-state partnership that pays for two tuition-free years of school for students in community, technical or tribal college programs that lead to an associate’s degree, an industry-recognized credential, or credits that are fully transferable to a four-year institution.
- Creating opportunities for training and credential programs and year-round education. I introduced legislation to expand the eligible uses of the ‘529’ tax advantaged education savings accounts to allow these accounts to be used for training and credential programs that help workers develop the skills needed for 21st century jobs. I also cosponsored the Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act—passed in May of 2017—which restores eligibility for students to apply for Pell grants for summer classes, helping students who do not follow the traditional four-year college path afford higher education.
- Expanding access to higher education for low-income and first-generation students. I have been a strong supporter of TRIO programs—including supporting funding increases that passed in March of 2018—that continue to provide fundamental support to low-income and first-generation students across Minnesota as they prepare to attend college.
- Treating immigrants with fairness and compassion. I supported immigration reform in 2007 and, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, helped pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate in 2013 that included an accountable pathway to earned citizenship, enforcement of existing laws, border security, and reforms to our visa system. It also included the DREAM Act, a bill that I have cosponsored and continue to support, which allows immigrants brought to the United States as children, through no choice of their own, to stay in the only country they consider home. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives did not pass this legislation. DREAMers must be given clear legal status through legislation. I will not stop working to find a bipartisan solution to help our DREAMers, fight for the continuation of temporary protected status programs, and ultimately reform our immigration system. I will also continue to confront mean-spirited rhetoric and policies that hurt our immigrant and refugee communities.
- Improving student financial literacy. I introduced the Empowering Student Borrowers Act to help students understand the financial implications of student loan debt and these key provisions passed the Senate in March of 2018. This legislation would require institutions of higher education to notify students of their total loan obligations, expected monthly payment, and estimated interest rate, and require the Administration to establish best practices for schools to teach financial literacy to students.
- Treating immigrants with fairness and compassion. When I first got to the Senate in 2007, Senator Kennedy asked Senator Whitehouse and me to be members of the immigration reform working group, and I was proud to work with Senator Kennedy on that bipartisan effort. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I was part of the successful effort to pass the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate that included a pathway to citizenship, prioritized enforcement of existing laws, addressed border security, provided for reforms to our visa system, and also included the DREAM Act. It would have also decreased the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years. I took the lead in ensuring that the bill included provisions to help protect immigrant victims of domestic violence by allowing women in the U.S. with spouses on temporary visas to petition for independent immigration status—encouraging them to come forward and receive the assistance they need. No one should be forced to remain in an abusive relationship due to fear of losing their legal status, and that is why I worked to pass my amendment in the Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote. Unfortunately, despite President Obama’s support, the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill was not allowed a vote in the House.
We must continue working in a bipartisan fashion to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which is crucial to moving our country and our economy forward—and which is one of my top priorities in the Senate. However, instead of moving forward to do that, this Administration has gone in the wrong direction. I have disagreed with this Administration’s divisive rhetoric as well as their harmful decisions to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); separate immigrant children from their parents at the border; deny hearings for asylum-seekers; propose denying citizenship to some immigrant children born in America; terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for several countries; and end Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Liberians, whose protections date back to President George H.W. Bush.
I will continue to seek solutions—and oppose policies that hurt our communities, our economy, and our country. Since the Administration’s decision to end DACA, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect DREAMers and I will not stop working to find a solution to help our DREAMers as well as secure a path to citizenship for so many other immigrants.
- Passing the most sweeping reform of our consumer product safety laws in decades. I was a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which was signed into law in August 2008, to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I wrote:
- The first provision bans lead in children's products. There had been no mandatory federal lead standard for children's products until the law was enacted.
- The second provision requires companies to stamp “batch numbers” on children’s products and their packaging, so that parents can quickly identify when products in their homes have been recalled by the government for safety reasons.
- The third provision bans industry-paid travel by members and staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers must have confidence that their consumer regulators are free of influence from the industries they supervise.
- Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, signed into law in 2009, to protect consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and to ensure the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors. I continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency to complete implementation of this bill, hold importers accountable, and keep our families safe.
- Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. Our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals hadn’t been updated since its passage in 1976. That’s why I supported reforms that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses with clear standards for developing new products. The Senate bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which I cosponsored, was signed into law in June 2016.
Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, signed into law in 2009, to protect consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and to ensure the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors. I continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency to complete implementation of this bill, hold importers accountable, and keep our families safe.
Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. Our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals hadn’t been updated since its passage in 1976. That’s why I supported reforms that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses with clear standards for developing new products. The Senate bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which I cosponsored, was signed into law in June 2016.
- Passing a new law to protect children from unsafe swimming pools. In In December 2007, legislation that I helped write to improve the safety of our nation’s public swimming pools was signed into law by President Bush. I took a personal interest in the issue of dangerous swimming pool drains after a horrific incident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina, Minnesota, was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail tragically died from complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics showed dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet, legislation to correct the problem had been stalled in Congress for years. After consulting with the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation that had been pending before Congress for years. One provision made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. Both amendments were included in the final bill. One of my proudest moments as a senator was the night I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and that President Bush was signing it into law. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), since the law’s enactment, there have not been any deaths caused by pool drains at public pools in the United States.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the Internet. I cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Administration to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the Internet by children and to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. And I have worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals, such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors, to detect and prevent child abuse. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against predators – both on the streets and online. (see Public Safety section)
- Strengthening our childhood nutrition programs. I helped lead the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in December 2010, to overhaul the major domestic food assistance programs that serve the nutritional needs of 30 million American children each day. I opposed efforts to roll back this important law, which expands access to child nutrition programs to address childhood obesity, improves the nutritional quality of meals to promote health, and will help reduce childhood hunger. The law also included my legislation to improve nutrition standards for meals served in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and to provide health education and guidance for childcare providers. I also fought to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines. I supported the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, otherwise known as the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, when it passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in January 2016. The bill included provisions I authored to improve nutrition education, best practices, and training and technical assistance, which will help support healthy school meals, and preserves important reforms to school nutrition rules. We need to continue to build on the progress we’ve made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Expanding health care coverage for children. I have consistently supported the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to children who do not qualify for Medicaid and whose families cannot afford private insurance. CHIP supports health care coverage for approximately 8.9 million children. In February of 2018, we successfully extended funding of the program through 2027.
- Advocating for adoptive families and children. As the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I will continue to fight both in Washington and in Minnesota to advocate for adoptive families and children. My office has worked closely with adoptive Minnesota families to help them bring their children home from countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have fought for adoptive families and children by:
- Uniting children with families. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Minnesota families who had pending Haitian adoptions began contacting my office for help bringing their children home. Over the course of approximately two months following the earthquake, my office worked with 25 families to help unite 39 Haitian children with their new families in Minnesota.
- Completing adoption cases. I have worked to help families impacted by the Russian government’s ban on American adoption of Russian children and called on the Russian government to allow for the completion of adoption cases that were initiated prior to the ban.
- Cutting red tape for adoptive families. I authored the bipartisan Accuracy for Adoptees Act, signed into law by President Obama in early 2014, which cuts red tape for adoptive families and ensures that corrections made to adoptees’ birth certificates by state courts would be recognized by the federal government.
- Strengthening pre- and post- adoption services. In 2015, I introduced the Supporting Adoptive Families Act, which would help provide pre- and post- adoption support services, including mental health treatment, to help adoptive families stay strong.
- Helping adopted siblings stay together. I also authored and passed the International Adoption Simplification Act to help siblings stay together during an international adoption and protect adoptees from unsafe immunizations in foreign countries.
- Improving the lives of children abroad. I introduced the Vulnerable Children and Families Act with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri in 2017. This legislation will help ensure that our government is working in partnership with other countries to ensure that the more than 13 million children living without families can grow up in a permanent, safe, nurturing, and loving family.
- Supporting people with disabilities and their families. I worked to get the Achieving a Better Life Experience – or ABLE – Act signed into law, which allows people with disabilities to use tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover expenses like education, transportation, and housing without putting other support they count on at risk. I am also a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to expand these ABLE accounts to individuals who develop a disability before they turn 46 rather than 26 under current law, allowing families to transfer funds saved in a 529 education savings account into an ABLE account without incurring a tax penalty, and increasing the amount that individuals with disabilities can save in an ABLE account if they are working and earning an income. I have also fought to protect against cuts to the Medicaid program, which covers 40 percent of people with disabilities in our country, and to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from losing access to their health insurance coverage.
- Helping families to recover missing loved ones, including children with disabilities and seniors with dementia. I introduced legislation with Senator Grassley to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s, autism, or related conditions, which was signed into law in March of 2018. The bill, called Kevin and Avonte’s Law, reauthorizes, extends, and doubles the funding level of the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program and expands it to people with developmental disabilities who are at increased risk of wandering. It also expands access to resources for first responders and law enforcement to make sure they’re equipped with technology that can help save lives and that they’re getting the right training.
- Protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. I authored the Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, which was signed into law as part of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act in October of 2017. My legislation cracks down on elder abuse by strengthening oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians and conservators. I supported the Elder Justice Act, passed in 2010, which establishes the Elder Justice Program to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly by providing grants to states to properly train and certify employees at long-term care facilities. I supported the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act to improve authorities' ability to conduct criminal background checks on long-term care workers. I have also led efforts to urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office to help prevent and more effectively respond to elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, including by keeping families and guardians better informed about incidents and investigations.
- Protecting seniors from fraud. I introduced the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act with Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine. This bill, which has passed the Senate, will provide much needed protection to seniors from fraud schemes by establishing an effective complaint system that ensures complaints of fraud are quickly forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to distribute informational materials to seniors, their families, and their caregivers that explain the process for contacting law enforcement authorities in the event that a senior is targeted in a fraud scheme. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’ll continue to make sure seniors are protected from scams.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. I introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member. Additionally, I introduced the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act with Senator Collins from Maine to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. I also cosponsored the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would strengthen federal support of Alzheimer’s research and improve the benefit structure under Medicare.
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. I have consistently supported increased heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). When the Administration proposed eliminating LIHEAP in the budget, I urged the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reconsider and I was part of a bipartisan effort that helped save the program. I will continue fighting to ensure that low-income households across Minnesota can meet their energy needs and avoid having to choose between heating their homes and other basic necessities.