February 02, 2021

Cardin, Van Hollen Seek Critical LIHEAP Utility Assistance

44 U.S. Senators seek robust LIHEAP funding in next pandemic relief package

WASHINGTON – With temperatures dropping, gas and electricity bills mounting, and COVID-19 infection rates still out of control, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) and 42 of their colleagues are seeking a significant boost for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next pandemic relief package. 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 program is administered by local community action agencies.

The Senators are urging robust supplemental funding to keep people safe, stop the spread of COVID-19, and prevent vulnerable Americans from having their utilities shutoff and accumulating debts they can’t afford to pay. The 44 Senators sent a letter to Congressional leaders today outlining the increased need for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next pandemic relief package. 

“The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer,” the Senators wrote.  “State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.”

LIHEAP is a proven program with bipartisan support and a proven track record of effectively administering federal funds to qualified households.  The Senators are urging additional LIHEAP funding be included as part of a comprehensive federal COVID-19 response that protects vulnerable American households across the country.

The letter notes: “Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills.  The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.”

“LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  Yet the annual funding for LIHEAP is only able to provide benefits to approximately one in six eligible households.  We appreciate the $900 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP, but those funds are now fully obligated and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with their growing bills,” the Senators wrote.

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators: Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

In addition to the $900 million in LIHEAP funds through the CARES Act, Congress also worked together on a bipartisan basis to provide $3.7 billion for LIHEAP in 2020.

 

Full text of the letter follows:

February 1, 2021

 

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

As you work to craft another recovery package to help Americans cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urgently request that you provide robust supplemental funding that reflects the increased need for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer.

State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.  Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills.  The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.

LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  Yet the annual funding for LIHEAP is only able to provide benefits to approximately one in six eligible households.  We appreciate the $900 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP, but those funds are now fully obligated and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with their growing bills.

Thank you for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you to support these important programs in this time of crisis.

 

Sincerely,

 

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