2/15/2017 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In a continued effort to help struggling families stay safe and healthy through initiatives that assist with energy costs, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who helm the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators urging President Trump to include robust funding in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

In a letter to President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Mark Sandy, Senators Reed, Collins and 43 of their colleagues noted the bipartisan support behind both LIHEAP and WAP and described the critical role both programs play in providing vulnerable populations and low-income households with affordable home energy.

“LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winters and hot summer months,” the Senators wrote. “More than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and the percentage of households with at least one veteran has grown to 20 percent.  The program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.”

Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Reed and Collins, who in recent years have worked together to prevent any funding cuts to the program.  The current funding level for LIHEAP is able to serve less than 20 percent of the eligible population and that those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant significantly reduced.

In FY 2016, Rhode Island households received over $26 million in LIHEAP funding, as part of $3.01 billion in total LIHEAP funds provided to states.  Last October, Reed helped secure funding under the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR), totaling over $3 billion nationally for LIHEAP and $22.49 million for Rhode Island.

The letter also emphasizes the importance of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which has helped reduce the burden of high energy prices for more than forty years by helping low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities make necessary energy efficient improvements to their homes.  Rhode Island households received nearly $1.1 million in WAP funds for FY 2016 as part of over $213 million allocated to states.  Since 1990, Rhode Island has used WAP funds to successfully weatherize more than 13,250 low-income homes and rental units, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  The DOE also notes that WAP helps eligible Rhode Island families reduce annual energy bills by an average of $264. 

By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of dwellings, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance,” the letter reads

“LIHEAP and WAP are vital programs that help thousands of Rhode Islanders stay safe and help improve the energy efficiency of their homes through the coldest winters and the hottest summers,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee.  “We need robust funding for both programs to ensure vulnerable populations don’t have to choose between paying high energy bills and paying for food, medicine, and other necessities.”

Other Senators who signed the letter include Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The full text of the letter is below:

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of two successful federal programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), that are currently helping to meet the energy needs of eligible low-income households across the country.  Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, veterans, and seniors. LIHEAP and WAP have enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that you will prioritize funding for both programs in your fiscal year 2018 budget proposal.

LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winters and hot summer months.  More than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and the percentage of households with at least one veteran has grown to 20 percent.  The program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise roughly 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income.  Sadly, though, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.

The Weatherization Assistance Program is another key initiative, which for 40 years has helped to reduce more permanently the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households.  By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of dwellings, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance.  WAP has been repeatedly demonstrated as cost-effective and has supported thousands of high quality, skilled jobs.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that weatherization saves eligible single-family homes on average $283 in annual energy cost savings, which benefits not only the household but the local economy.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request. We recognize the ongoing challenges facing the discretionary budget and look forward to working with you to support these vital programs and ensure access to affordable home energy for the most vulnerable households in every state.