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Letter to Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Re: Full Funding for LIHEAP

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Re: Full Funding for LIHEAP

Senator Clinton Continues Efforts to Ensure Full Funding for LIHEAP

Clinton: Strong Support for LIHEAP Needed to Help Americans Struggling with Financial Burden of Rising Energy Prices

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined a bipartisan coalition of her colleagues in urging the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies to provide the authorized $5.1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill. In a letter delivered to the Chairman and Ranking Member, the lawmakers stated that with many families expecting to pay 37 percent more to heat their homes this winter, including the authorized $5.1 billion for LIHEAP is critical in ensuring that they will be able to cope with soaring energy costs. The group also pressed their concerns that the President's proposed budget would cut LIHEAP funding by more than half a billion dollars over the previous year, and that these cuts may force states to either lower benefit amounts, or assist less people; possibly dropping many as 1.2 million households from the program.

"With the skyrocketing energy costs and an economy already on the decline, millions of hardworking families throughout New York and the rest of the country are being forced to choose between paying their energy bills and providing other necessities like food and healthcare," said Senator Clinton. "Low-income households disproportionately endure the burden of rising energy prices, and LIHEAP can make a big difference in helping to meet those costs."

On March 17, Senator Clinton announced passage of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution, which she cosponsored in November 2007, which makes room in the budget for the $5.1 billion in funding for LIHEAP. This is the maximum level authorized for the program, as opposed the President's 2009 budget request which provides only $1.7 billion (See - http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=294928&& and http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=287040&&).

Earlier this year as part of her ongoing efforts to ensure working families receive the resources they need to combat rising heating and energy costs, Senator Clinton called on the President to immediately release all funding from the LIHEAP contingency fund, which is available at his discretion (See - http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=293493&&).

In December 2007, Senator Clinton wrote to the President requesting that he release the entire LIHEAP contingency fund in anticipation of rising energy costs this winter (See- http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=289989&&).

According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), more information on where to apply for LIHEAP assistance can be obtained by:

• Calling OTDA at: 1-800-342-3009
• Visiting OTDA online at: http://www.otda.state.ny.us/main/heap/

A copy of the letter to Senators Harkin and Specter is attached -

The Honorable Tom Harkin, Chairman
The Honorable Arlen Specter, Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter:

Thank you for your support in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). We appreciate your strong and consistent support for this program and respectfully request you provide the authorized $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in fiscal year 2009. While we recognize that the Subcommittee will face difficult decisions in allocating resources, we believe this investment for low-income households is vital.

Many Americans are struggling under the burden of high energy prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, some households can expect to pay as much as 37 percent more to heat their homes during the 2007-2008 winter than during the 2006-2007 winter. LIHEAP protects public health and safety by helping low-income families cope with these high energy costs. In addition, the program helps low-income homeowners weatherize their homes to save energy and lower their energy burden. Weatherization, on average, reduces heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $200 to $250 per year.

LIHEAP funding not only helps families cope with higher heating prices; it also makes homes safer for children. According to the Children's Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program (C-SNAP), babies and toddlers living in households that are inadequately heated are more likely to have developmental problems, be hospitalized, and be in overall worse health.

In FY 2008, LIHEAP appropriations totaled $2.57 billion. The President's FY 2009 budget requests only $2 billion for LIHEAP. This cut will force states to either lower benefit amounts, or assist less people; an estimate by the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA) found that as many as 1.2 million households could be dropped from the program in response to such a funding cut. In the face of high energy prices and increasing shut-off rates, funding for LIHEAP should be increased, not decreased.

No family in our nation should be forced to choose between paying an energy bill and putting food on the table for themselves and their children. No senior citizen should 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.

Your inclusion of $5.1 billion in LIHEAP funding in the fiscal year 2009 budget would help qualified low-income households receive much needed LIHEAP assistance in the coming year. Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,


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