12/04/2019 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to help vulnerable populations afford their heating and air conditioning during months of extreme temperatures, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are urging their colleagues who lead the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and Energy and Water Development to include the highest amount possible for heating assistance and weatherization programs in FY 2020 appropriations bills.

Reed and Collins this week wrote a letter to Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) asking for their continued support of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and their adoption of the highest possible funding level for LIHEAP in the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.  LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months.

“LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months,” the senators wrote.  “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.  Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors.”

Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Reed and Collins, who in recent years have worked together to prevent funding cuts to the program.  Last month, Reed helped secure $21,566,217 in LIHEAP funding to help Rhode Island families and seniors keep warm through the winter after joining Collins and other colleagues on a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar urging the Department to release LIHEAP funds without delay and at as high a level as possible under the continuing resolution (CR).

Reed and Collins also wrote a letter to Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asking for their continued support of and the highest possible funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which helps vulnerable populations make energy efficiency improvements in their homes, and the State Energy Program (SEP), which funds state initiatives to improve energy security, increase local energy efficiency, and boost economic growth.

“Energy savings are only a portion of the benefits from weatherization,” said the senators.  “The same study shows that the economic and health benefits of weatherization go far beyond permanently reducing energy costs. Children in weatherized households miss less school, improving educational outcomes. Adults miss less work. increasing both their own incomes and their contributions to economic growth. Families also experience fewer asthma symptoms and emergency room visits, decreasing out-or-pocket medical expenses by an average of $514. WAP also leverages additional non-federal funds, while supporting over 8,500 jobs and increasing national economic output by $1.2 billion.”

The full text of the letters follows:

December 4, 2019

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

We write in support of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and to urge the adoption of the highest possible funding level in the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. A bipartisan group of 44 Senators urged you to support funding for this program earlier this year and we request that you continue to prioritize funding for this vital program in FY 2020 to help ensure that it meets the needs of eligible low-income households and sellers.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. 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. Access to affordable home energy is a matter of health and safety for many low-income households, children, and seniors.

We are very concerned that the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available funding. This is at a time when the average cost of home heating and cooling remains unaffordable for many households nationwide. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, the current funding level is able to serve just one out of six eligible households, and those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced by about $76 since 2010, from $568 in FY 2010 to $520 in FY 2019. As a result, the purchasing power of the average grant for winter heating declined from about 66 percent in FY 2010 to 56 percent in FY 2018, leaving many low-income families and seniors struggling to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and having fewer resources available to meet other essential needs.

As you finalize the FY 2020 funding bill, we thank you again for your past support of the program and ask that you continue to take into account the great need for LlHEAP and the impact that cuts to the program could have on our most vulnerable citizens. Prioritizing LIHEAP in FY 2020 would ensure that eligible, low-income households and seniors receive much needed heating and cooling assistance.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of our request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to support this important program and to help provide access to affordable home energy for the most vulnerable households in our states.

Sincerely,

 

December 4, 201

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein:

We write to urge your continued support for two key energy efficiency and clean energy programs within the Department of Energy, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP), and urge you to adopt the highest possible funding levels for each program as you work to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the FY20 Energy and Water Development appropriations bills. A bipartisan group of 45 Senators sent a letter to you earlier this year in support of funding for these programs. These programs provide the foundation for energy efficiency and clean energy investments that create jobs, increase American competitiveness, save households and businesses money, and reduce pollution.

The Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities make lasting energy efficiency improvements to their homes. The reduced energy costs free up limited financial resources for essentials such as food and medicine. Throughout the history of the program, which has spanned more than four decades, WAP has helped more than 7.4 million low-income households reduce their energy bills. An independent study of WAP by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that each Weatherization Assistance dollar produces $4.50 in benefits, including energy savings. Using WAP, single-family homes have saved an average of $283 annually on energy costs.

Energy savings are only a portion of the benefits from weatherization. The same study shows that the economic and health benefits of weatherization go far beyond permanently reducing energy costs. Children in weatherized households miss less school, improving educational outcomes. Adults miss less work, increasing both their own incomes and their contributions to economic growth. Families also experience fewer asthma symptoms and emergency room visits, decreasing out-of-pocket medical expenses by an average of $514. WAP also leverages additional non-federal funds, while supporting over 8,500 jobs and increasing national economic output by $1.2 billion.

The State Energy Program provides technical expertise and funding to states to improve their energy security, increase their energy efficiency, and to boost economic growth. SEP combines the scientific and economic knowledge of the Department of Energy with locally led planning to improve the energy efficiency of hospitals and schools, install clean energy projects, and support private sector energy innovation. A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that every federal dollar invested in SEP leverages over $10 for energy-related economic development and produces over $7 in energy savings. The same study estimates that businesses reinvesting these energy savings into job-creating opportunities leads to thousands of jobs created per year.

We appreciate your efforts and your prioritization of programs that promote job growth and the growth of our nation's economy. We believe that investments in programs like WAP and SEP that reduce costs for American households and businesses, create greater economic competitiveness for our nation, and reduce pollution, should continue to receive funding.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to support these programs. 

Sincerely,