Thursday, December 22, 2011
Federal Budget Cuts Heating Aid to RI by $8 Million
Reed: Congress Severely Underfunded LIHEAP; Vows to Keep Pressing to Restore Heating Assistance
PROVIDENCE, RI - As winter approaches, there is significantly less federal funding available this year for low-income families to get home heating assistance after Congress cut over $1.2 billion dollars from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income families and seniors on fixed-incomes with their energy bills.
LIHEAP will receive $3.5 billion in the 2012 budget, a cut of about 25% from last year’s funding level of $4.7 billion due to overall limits in discretionary spending.
As a result, Rhode Island is slated to receive approximately $23 million in 2012, down from $31.1 million in LIHEAP funding the state received in 2011. Last year, Rhode Island’s LIHEAP programs provided assistance checks of about $390 to utility companies on behalf of more than 36,000 Rhode Islanders. But due to this year's spending cuts, agencies distributing the funds will likely either serve fewer clients or reduce the level of assistance.
"Even with the bipartisan efforts of me and Senator Snowe, the budget severely underfunds LIHEAP for the coming winter heating season and sadly that is going to have a negative impact on families and communities across the country,” said Reed. “LIHEAP is a proven, cost-effective program that provides critical heating assistance to our most vulnerable citizens. Too many of my colleagues think this is the kind of federal spending that needs to be cut. The reality is these cuts are coming just when people need it most and is only adding to the real hardships facing Rhode Islanders in need. I have already introduced bipartisan legislation to restore LIHEAP funding and will keep the heat on Congress to do the right thing and help those in need,” said Reed.
The Reed-Snowe-Sanders LIHEAP Protection Act (S.1961) will maintain LIHEAP funding at last year’s level of $4.7 billion to help ensure that vulnerable Americans do not get left out in the cold. The bill, which Reed introduced on December 7, already has 24 cosponsors, including 5 Republicans. In order to break a Republican filibuster in the Senate, 60 votes are required, which means that at least 7 Republicans must join all 53 Democrats and Independents in supporting the bill.
In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released $12.7 million for Rhode Island to meet its LIHEAP obligations, and today HHS released another $4.6 million to the state, with approximately an additional $5 million expected to be released to the state shortly.
Households relying on oil as their primary heating source are expected to be hit the hardest. The Energy Information Administration projects average household heating expenditures for heating oil will increase by 8 percent this winter (October 1 to March 31) compared with last winter. About one-third (11,600) of the 36,000 Rhode Island households who received LIHEAP assistance last year relied on heating oil as their primary source of heat.