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Letter to President George W. Bush, Re: Release $20 Million in Contingency Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Funds

November 20, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to request that you release the remaining $20 million in contingency LIHEAP funds and to urge you to support at least $2.411 billion for the LIHEAP program in FY2008. With the price of oil approaching $100 per barrel, and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimating that households can expect to pay between 10 to 22 percent more for heating fuels than during the 2006-2007 winter, states need additional funding immediately to reduce the energy burden of families, individuals with disabilities, and senior citizens and ensure their health and safety this winter.

Between FY2003 and FY2007 the number of households receiving LIHEAP assistance increased by 26 percent from 4.6 million to about 5.8 million or about 15.6 percent of the eligible population. During this same period, the federal appropriation increased by only 10 percent with the resulting average grant declining from $349 to $305. Unfortunately, energy prices are not decreasing proportionally, but instead continue to rise. Home heating prices are projected by the EIA to reach almost $1,000 this year for the typical family, an increase of almost 80 percent higher than the average cost of home heating during the winter of 2001-02. As a result, there has been a significant decrease in the program's purchasing power. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, states are planning to reduce the number of households served by about 15 percent in the absence of additional federal and supplemental state funding. The result would be a decline in the number of households served from about 5.8 million in FY2007 to 4.9 million.

LIHEAP is vital to protecting the public health and safety of low-income families. According to the Children's Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program (C-SNAP) out of Boston Medical Center, babies and toddlers who live in energy insecure households are more likely to suffer poor health, require hospitalization, manifest developmental problems, and lack adequate food. C-SNAP found that when families do not have access to sufficient energy, they may resort to unsafe heating methods and do not have the proper means to refrigerate or prepare food for their children. In addition, without a sufficient LIHEAP benefit, seniors living on fixed incomes often have to decide between buying life-saving prescriptions and paying utility bills. For individuals and households that may have to face these difficult choices, LIHEAP makes a real difference in their ability to cope with adverse circumstances.

We request that your Administration release funding from the LIHEAP contingency fund to help low-income seniors and families with their home energy expenses and we urge you to support at least $2.411 billion for the program in FY2008.

Sincerely,

Edward M. Kennedy
John F. Kerry
Susan Collins
Jack Reed
Christopher J. Dodd
Debbie Stabenow
Joseph R. Biden
Barack Obama
Barbara A. Mikulski
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jon Tester
Charles E. Schumer
Evan Bayh
Jeff Bingaman
Sheldon Whitehouse
Bernard Sanders
Mark L. Pryor
Carl Levin
Richard G. Lugar
Joseph I. Lieberman
Max Baucus
John D. Rockefeller IV
Blanche L. Lincoln
Norm Coleman
Olympia J. Snowe
Arlen Specter
Tom Harkin
Robert Menendez
Ron Wyden
Herb Kohl
Ken Salazar


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