10/17/2019 — 

WASHINGTON DC – As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the upcoming winter months, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for LIHEAP as quickly as possible under the current continuing resolution.

In a letter sent to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar, Senators Reed, Collins, and 33 of their colleagues are urging the Department to release LIHEAP funds without delay and at as high a level as possible under the continuing resolution.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that provides eligible low-incomes households with help paying a portion of their heating and utility bills.  Eligibility is based on a household’s combined income as well as the number of residents.  President Trump’s budget proposals have sought to eliminate LIHEAP, but instead, Congress, led by Senators Reed and Collins, successfully included $3.69 billion in LIHEAP aid for 2019. 

“LIHEAP helps thousands of Rhode Island families stay warm and safe through the cold winter months,” said Senator Reed.   “Children, Americans with disabilities, and seniors on fixed incomes shouldn’t have to choose between paying utility bills or forgoing essentials like food and medicine.  LIHEAP is an effective program that provides a lifeline to Rhode Island families struggling to pay for their home heating needs.  Instead of trying to eliminate the program or hold up assistance, the Trump Administration should swiftly distribute these funds to ensure it reaches those in need.”

“Vulnerable Mainers rely on the LIHEAP program to keep warm during the winter months,” said Senator Collins.  “This funding will help ensure that low-income families and seniors do not have to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for food or medicine.  The Administration should move quickly to distribute these critical funds appropriated by Congress.”

Low-income, elderly, and those with disabilities can get help paying their winter heating bills by applying for LIHEAP through their local Community Action Agency.  The average annual LIHEAP benefit to Rhode Island households that use the program is in the range of about $820-$850.  Benefit amounts are based on each household’s income level, family size, whether they live in subsidized or non-subsidized housing, and the type of fuel used for heating.

In addition to Reed and Collins, other Senators who signed the letter include: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstsein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN). Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The full text of the letter follows:

The Honorable Alex M. Azar, II     
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
330 C St SW
Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Secretary Azar:

As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the winter, we respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution. 

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine.  On average, low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.

As states begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible.  Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.

We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.