An Open Letter Appeal to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to Continue Funding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $5.1 Billion in Fiscal Year 2012
Date: June 10, 2011
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Senators and Representatives:
We are writing to request that you provide at least $5.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program in the FY2012 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. We understand the budgetary constraints facing Congress this year. However, with energy bills remaining high in many parts of the country, and economic conditions challenging for so many vulnerable households, LIHEAP has never been more vital in protecting roughly 8.9 million families—approximately 23 million people— during both cold winters and hot summers.
LIHEAP is an efficient and highly effective program that delivers critical short-term seasonal aid to our most vulnerable neighbors, especially the elderly, many of whom are on fixed incomes. These payments serve as “bridges,” making it possible to avoid shutoffs so that these households do not have to make the difficult choice between paying for their home energy bills or food, medicine and other necessities.
The increased demand for LIHEAP assistance across the country is undeniable. In 2008, 33.8 million households met LIHEAP’s strict eligibility requirements. Yet, there was only enough money in the program to serve 5.7 million households. Since then, rising unemployment has driven record numbers of Americans, many for the first time, to seek help from this program. In fact, in 2009, 14.3% of the nation— nearly 44 million Americans – was confirmed to live in poverty by the U.S. Census Bureau. The struggling economy has introduced economic vulnerability to many American households. Reducing funding for LIHEAP back to the 2008 levels of under $2.6 billion would prevent 3.1 million families from receiving LIHEAP’s benefit, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. We believe this would prevent 8 million Americans from receiving assistance. Most of those who would be cut off are likely to be elderly, disabled, or at-risk pre-school children.
In addition, energy prices have increased substantially in recent years and are projected to remain high in many parts of the country. For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirms that the average cost of heating with heating oil jumped 59 percent from $1,337 to $2,124 this winter. Over that same time period, the national average cost of heating with propane rose 54 percent over the last five years from $1,275 to $1,966 and the average cost of heating with electricity increased 30 percent from $723 to $941. EIA expects prices for all heating fuels will increase for consumers next winter and America’s need for cooling is increasing. These increases, along with the doubling of gasoline prices in the last two years and the increase in poverty rates have placed incredible pressures on at-risk Americans. LIHEAP is not an entitlement. It can only provide assistance if Congress appropriates these vital funds, which are very urgently needed.
Thank you for your interest in this program. We urge you to provide at least $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in FY 2012.
Please direct any questions or requests for more information to Debra Kitner by email or phone at (717) 901-0609