Critical need for Congress to restore LIHEAP funds

After the 2014 drop in LIHEAP funds, the President’s 2015 request is reduced, yet again… leaving an even greater rate of at-risk households with the possibility of not receiving assistance

The following is a statement dated March 26, 2014 released by The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) requesting that Congress restore LIHEAP dollars in 2015.

White House’s Energy Assistance Request “a Lead Balloon”

NEUAC Asks Congress to Restore LIHEAP to at least $4.7 Billion

Washington, D.C. – The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition’s Board Chairman voiced NEUAC’s adamant opposition to the President’s proposed funding cuts for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  Mr. John Rich made the following statement:

“After the Polar Vortex, recent heat waves, a 15% U.S. poverty rate, and record energy consumption, yet another cut to America’s LIHEAP program is just plain wrong. Frankly, the President’s request is a lead balloon.  It’s a disappointment.  

U.S. LIHEAP funding dropped by a third from $5.1 in 2010 to $3.4 billion in 2014.  The President’s 2015 request is for just $2.8 billion, which is yet another 18% cut.   

Reductions through 2013 prevented 1.3 million households from being helped by LIHEAP.  At the same time, need for assistance has risen and the number of households helped has fallen from 8 million in 2010 to 6.7 million in 2013. More than 35 million households are likely to meet LIHEAP’s federal eligibility criteria in 2015.

This suggests that four out of five eligible households will not be served, largely due to low federal funding. 

As compelling as these statistics are, they don’t fully convey the human cost of cutting LIHEAP.  Congress has instructed LIHEAP administrators to prioritize households with at-risk elderly, handicapped and/or preschool-aged individuals.  These Americans have few, if any, alternatives.  They need LIHEAP to escape life-threatening hot and cold weather.  We have also seen in recent years that 20 percent  of households receiving LIHEAP contain a veteran or an active member of the military.

“Despite the good works of churches, charities, NEUAC, utilities and others, the cumulative loss of federal funds is irreplaceable. It cannot be made up.

NEUAC asks Congress to commit at least $4.7 billion to LIHEAP in 2015.  The numbers of at-risk seniors, preschoolers and disabled veterans are increasing.  They must not be abandoned.” 

Mr. Rich’s statement coincides with NEUAC’s LIHEAP Action Day.  Hundreds of LIHEAP supporters are meeting with Members of Congress today, to urge that Congress again return LIHEAP funding to at least $4.7 billion.

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Please stay tuned for updated related information on how Missouri is handling similar emergency energy assistance funding through Utilitcare.

The current request from energy and utility affordability and assistance advocates in MO is to contact the Appropriations Chairman and other committee members of the need for Utilicare and ask for their support to maintain the $6 million in the budget.

To see more information on the committee members visit http://www.senate.mo.gov/14info/comm/aprp.htm.