WASHINGTON, DC – Nobody wants to think about home heating fuel prices in September when temperatures still feel like it’s mid-summer.  But with winter approaching and home heating bills forecast to spike this winter due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says now is the time for Congress to make additional emergency home heating aid available so states can prepare and help vulnerable residents stay safe this winter.

 

Reed, the leading Congressional champion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps over 5.3 million households nationwide afford their energy bills, has been leading the push for emergency LIHEAP funding ahead of the winter heating season.   The White House, anticipating that Congress will not complete its work on a comprehensive spending package for fiscal 2023 before the September 30 deadline, today outlined its request for a ‘continuing resolution’ (CR).  This stop-gap spending bill would keep the federal government funded while Congress completes its work and includes $500 million in emergency funding for LIHEAP, as well as funding for aid to Ukraine, natural disaster relief, COVID-19 response, and monkeypox assistance.

 

A CR would keep the government funded at current levels for a limited time until a full year spending plan is agreed upon.  It will be up to Congress to determine the duration of the CR and whether any additional funding for emergencies and exigencies should be included.  Senator Reed is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

 

“Despite today’s heat, winter is around the corner and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is sending home heating costs higher across the globe.  I commend President Biden for including $500 million for LIHEAP in this request and will continue to push for more.  Congress needs to do its part to keep people safe this winter by providing LIHEAP home heating assistance to vulnerable seniors and families,” said Senator Reed, who urged appropriators to include emergency supplemental funding for LIHEAP in the coming CR.  “We know that rising home energy costs disproportionately impact low-income families, and we know that LIHEAP is an effective lifeline that helps people in all fifty states afford their energy bills.  President Biden gets it, and he’s given us a good start in this proposal.  Congress needs to build on his request and make this assistance available as soon as possible so people aren’t left out in the cold.”

 

Senator Reed, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), has led a bipartisan call for greater LIHEAP funding to be included in the CR.  

 

Annual federal LIHEAP funding levels are currently set to reach about $4 billion in fiscal year 2023.  However, more is needed as cost increases have decreased the purchasing power of LIHEAP dollars with the price of home heating oil nearly doubling in the past year and the forecast for electricity and natural gas projected to rise significantly.

 

LIHEAP is administered by states and accessed through local Community Action Agencies.  Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.

 

Nearly 26,000 Rhode Island households benefitted from LIHEAP last year, with the average annual LIHEAP benefit covering about $570 in winter home heating costs for Rhode Islanders.  Over 3,360 Rhode Island households also received LIHEAP crisis grants, which assist LIHEAP recipients when they have experienced a utility disconnection or are low on deliverable fuel and can’t afford to get another delivery.

 

Last year, Senator Reed delivered nearly $56 million to Rhode Island to help residents save on their home energy bills.