Kerry, Kennedy urge $2 billion in funding for low income Home Energy Assistance Program
Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy today are urging their colleagues in the Senate to include $2 billion in federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the FY08 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill.
"As energy prices continue to rise, thousands of Massachusetts families are having extreme difficulties making ends meet, and are in immediate danger of having their essential utility services cut-off," said Senator Kerry. "These families need our help now. They shouldn't be forced to worry about where their next meal is coming from or risk going without medical care while big oil companies continue to reap big profits."
"Families need immediate help getting out from debt left over from last winter's energy bills. We should act now to ensure families aren't forced to make impossible choices between essentials like life-saving medicine and food or heating and cooling their homes," said Senator Kennedy.
The text of the letter is as follows:
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
With energy prices skyrocketing and millions of families struggling to pay their home heating oil, propane, kerosene and other utility bills, we are writing to urge you to include $2 billion in federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the Fiscal Year 2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. We believe these LIHEAP funds should be split evenly between formula funding and contingency funding.
According to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA), representing the state directors of LIHEAP, a record-breaking 15.6 million American families or nearly 15 percent of all households are at least 30 days overdue in paying their utility bills. Several states have laws on the books that impose a moratorium on cutting-off essential utility services in the winter. However, these utility shut-off moratoriums expire during the spring. Without additional LIHEAP funding, senior citizens on fixed-incomes, low income families with children, and persons with disabilities from across the country are in danger of having their essential utility services shut-off this spring.
In fact, NEADA has recently reported that:
· In California, 1.7 million households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $300 million.
· In Iowa, 218,360 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $36.5 million.
· In Massachusetts, approximately 100,000 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $100 million.
· In New Mexico, 15,629 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $3.9 million.
· In Oklahoma, 115,015 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $9.2 million.
· In Pennsylvania, 650,477 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $341 million
· In Wisconsin, 42,506 households are at least 30 days late paying their energy bills owing a combined $42.5 million
Rapidly rising energy costs are the major reason that so many Americans are late in paying their energy bills. It is extremely important that additional LIHEAP funding be included in the Supplemental to address these urgent needs.
LIHEAP is not only a life-saver in helping millions of Americans heat their homes during the winter in cold-weather states, it is also very important to warm-weather states in helping to provide air conditioning assistance during the summer.
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.
For all of these reasons, we are urging the inclusion of $2 billion in LIHEAP funding split evenly between formula funding and contingency funding in the FY '08 Supplemental Appropriations bill. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss this very important matter soon.