What's the Word On: Winter Energy Bills
Q: Will Congress approve more money to replenish the federal home heating assistance program?
A: If I had my way in December, Congress would have approved an extra $2 billion for the federal Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Last summer I supported efforts during passage of the energy bill to authorize the biggest ever increase for LIHEAP to $5.1 billion. Now lawmakers need to make sure that this vital program is adequately funded. Working with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who represent Snow Belt states in the Midwest and Northeast, I have long supported this federal program that helps low-income families and elderly Americans afford to keep their homes heated in the cold winter months. Regrettably, some lawmakers torpedoed in December the effort to add an additional $2 billion for LIHEAP. Because the funding proposal was linked to opening up domestic oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, some of the very same lawmakers who support LIHEAP objected and the effort failed. People on the lower end of the economic ladder pay a greater share of their income to afford life's essentials, including food, medicine, clothing and shelter. This winter, the bite taken out of their already squeezed budgets to keep their homes heated may increase by one-third. For some families and seniors on fixed incomes, that's a bone-chilling proposition that could make a warm home seem like a luxury. I'm glad to report the federal government in January released $2 million in emergency funding for Iowa's LIHEAP services. In the meantime, I will continue supporting fiscally responsible measures in Congress to adequately fund this important program that helps people with limited means afford to heat their homes.
Q: How do Iowans who need help paying for winter heating bills apply for assistance?
A: Iowans interested in making an application for needs-based financial assistance to help pay their home heating bills this winter should contact a local outreach office located in each of Iowa's 99 counties. The Community Action Agencies operate 18 regional offices administered by the Iowa Department of Human Rights. Iowans may contact the Iowa Bureau of Energy Assistance, Lucas State Office Building in Des Moines by calling 515/281-4204 or go to www.state.ia.us/government/dhr/caa for more information.