WASHINGTON, DC – Unfairly high home energy bills are enough to leave anyone steamed, but that won’t keep people warm during the coldest winter months.

  

To help reduce residential energy costs and protect vulnerable Americans from price shocks this winter, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), are leading a bipartisan, bicameral push to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps over 5.3 million households nationwide afford their energy bills.

 

Reed, Collins, and 56 of their colleagues sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging them to address the expected surge in home energy prices with emergency supplemental funding for LIHEAP.

 

“In light of skyrocketing home energy bills and additional increases expected for this winter, we urge the Committee to provide emergency supplemental funding for this critical program,” the 58 members of Congress wrote.

 

Senators Reed and Collins led the successful effort to provide $500 million in LIHEAP funding, over five years, in the bipartisan infrastructure law. The American Rescue plan also included $4.5 billion in LIHEAP funding, resulting in about $8 billion in total last year for the federal assistance program to help all fifty states and territories lower the energy burden for low-income households, who pay a higher proportion of household income for home energy costs, by paying a portion of their home energy bills.

 

This level of LIHEAP aid delivered nearly $56 million to Rhode Island and more than $90 million to Maine last year to help residents save on their home energy bills.

 

Annual federal 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.

 

“The Committee’s efforts to increase the annual appropriation for LIHEAP for Fiscal Year 2023 represents an important commitment to restoring funding to the levels reached over a decade ago.  However, because of the run-up in natural gas, heating oil, and electricity prices, we are deeply concerned that we will not meet the needs of low-income families this winter,” the U.S. Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote.  “The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index recently reported alarming increases across all sources of home energy fuel over the past 12 months.  Natural gas is up 38.4 percent from this time last year – the largest such increase since the period ending in October 2005.  Electricity is up 13.7 percent – the largest such increase since the period ending in April 2006 – and heating oil is up 98.5 percent.”

 

“In a normal year, LIHEAP plays a critical role in offsetting burdensome heating and cooling costs that strain the budgets of financially vulnerable Americans.  However, this winter, LIHEAP will be more important than ever in helping families afford their energy bills.  We urge you to help states prepare for a particularly tough winter ahead by appropriating emergency supplemental funding for this critical program,” the letter concluded.

 

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.

 

In Maine, $42,500 households benefitted from LIHEAP last season, with the average annual benefit covering $722 in home heating costs. About 6,400 Maine households also received LIHEAP crisis grants, with the average benefit of $739.

 

The letter was led on the House-side by U.S. Representatives Jared Golden (D-ME-02), Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY-02) and Peter Welch (D-VT).

 

Full text of the letter follows:

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Chairman

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro

Chairwoman

Senate Committee on Appropriations 

House Committee on Appropriations 

Washington, D.C. 20510

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

 

The Honorable Richard Shelby           

Vice Chairman

The Honorable Kay Granger

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Appropriations 

House Committee on Appropriations 

Washington, D.C. 20510

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman DeLauro, Vice Chairman Shelby, and Ranking Member Granger:

 

We appreciate the Committee’s longstanding support for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which serves as a lifeline for millions of seniors and low-income families across the country.  In light of skyrocketing home energy bills and additional increases expected for this winter, we urge the Committee to provide emergency supplemental funding for this critical program.

 

The Committee’s efforts to increase the annual appropriation for LIHEAP for Fiscal Year 2023 represents an important commitment to restoring funding to the levels reached over a decade ago.  However, because of the run-up in natural gas, heating oil, and electricity prices, we are deeply concerned that we will not meet the needs of low-income families this winter. 

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index recently reported alarming increases across all sources of home energy fuel over the past 12 months.  Natural gas is up 38.4 percent from this time last year – the largest such increase since the period ending in October 2005.  Electricity is up 13.7 percent – the largest such increase since the period ending in April 2006 – and heating oil is up 98.5 percent.

 

Currently, an estimated 20 million families are behind on their utility bills, totaling more than $18 billion in arrearages.  Without increased LIHEAP funding, this trend will only continue, straining household budgets even further.  Increased energy costs will inevitably force many vulnerable families to make heartbreaking decisions between heating their homes, putting food on their tables, and buying the medications they need to survive.

 

In a normal year, LIHEAP plays a critical role in offsetting burdensome heating and cooling costs that strain the budgets of financially vulnerable Americans.  However, this winter, LIHEAP will be more important than ever in helping families afford their energy bills.  We urge you to help states prepare for a particularly tough winter ahead by appropriating emergency supplemental funding for this critical program.

 

Thank you for your attention to this request and your support of the LIHEAP program.

 

Sincerely,