DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006--Continued -- (Senate - October 25, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the amendment offered by Senators REED and COLLINS to the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor, HHS appropriations bill to appropriate $2.92 billion emergency funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP provides much needed assistance to Americans who might otherwise be forced to choose between heating their home during the winter months and putting food on the table for their family. In Illinois, 311,000 households received LIHEAP assistance last winter, out of 600,000 that applied. Clearly there is much more need than there are available funds.
If you have never experienced an Illinois winter, I can tell you that it can be bitterly cold. In January, the wind coming off of Lake Michigan near my house in Chicago will chill you to the bone. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is projecting an even colder than average winter. As a result of colder temperatures and rising energy prices, the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration is predicting that families will be faced with significantly higher heating costs than last year. Those families whose homes are heated primarily by natural gas will pay about $350 more this winter, families in homes heated primarily by propane will pay an average of $325 more, and families in homes heated primarily by heating oil will pay, on average, as much as $378 more than last year.
With the expected increase in heating costs, there will be an increased demand for LIHEAP assistance. Already this year, 100,000 Illinois households have applied for help with their heating bills for the coming winter, a higher than average number for this point in the year. The $2.92 billion in emergency funding proposed in this amendment will supplement the $2.18 billion already contained in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill to fully fund LIHEAP at a total of $5.1 billion.
Livable shelter is a basic human necessity. Without authorizing these emergency funds: we put the elderly, the disabled and the low-income families that depend on this aid at risk. If we have learned anything from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot afford to shortchange programs that provide assistance for the most vulnerable in our society.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important amendment.