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Governor Slams Feds on Energy Assistance Funds

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Location: Phoenix, AZ


GOVERNOR SLAMS FEDS ON ENERGY ASSISTANCE FUNDS

Arizona Gets Tiny Fraction of LIHEAP Funding

Governor Janet Napolitano upbraided the federal government for short-changing Arizona on energy assistance funds that provide help in heating or cooling homes to people having trouble making ends meet. Arizona received $397,412 - less than 0.3 percent of the total $120.5
million distribution.

In a letter to Mike Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Governor Napolitano wrote that despite a surge of more than 30 percent in requests for utility bill assistance during the summer - as well as cold winters in Arizona's higher elevations - the energy assistance needs of Arizonans continue to be ignored. In July, the Governor wrote to Secretary Leavitt to request a greater share of LIHEAP funds for Arizona in light of rising energy prices and extreme heat.

For Arizona, "The total distribution for this year equates to less than $6 per low income person in Arizona versus a total distribution to Connecticut of nearly $65.6 million, or $125 per low income person," the Governor wrote. "This latest contingency fund distribution is part of a longstanding pattern of the LIHEAP program's unequal treatment of Arizona and other warm-weather states due to a complex and outdated funding formula that favors cold-weather states," she continued.

Only the much less populous states of Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia, received less than Arizona's share. While the LIHEAP program favors coldweather states in the northeast, heat remains the number-one weather-related killer in the United States. "In the future, Congress must engage in a long-term discussion regarding the equitable distribution of aid to low-income families across the country," the Governor wrote.

Governor Napolitano has had a long record of fighting for Arizona's fair share of energy assistance. In addition to urging Secretary Leavitt to provide more resources to Arizona earlier this year, she has written to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development about their policy of providing assistance for heating bills but not cooling bills, and requested contingency LIHEAP funds in 2007.


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