Concerned with the possible record high prices of home heating oil this winter, U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) has become an cosponsor of two bipartisan bills: H.R. 6321, the "Home Energy Affordability Tax Relief Act" (HEATR), that would provide a tax credit for individuals and families who to offset their home heating costs during the winter season; and, H.R. 6473, bipartisan legislation that would release heating oil from the Northeast Home Heating Oil reserve if the price of heating oil remains above $4 per gallon.
"As we've seen with the current cost of gasoline, rapid price increases can and do occur without warning and with little recourse. The pain we are feeling now at the pump could have been reduced if we had taken proactive steps to achieve energy independence and security. We must not make that same mistake with home heating costs," said LoBiondo. "With prices in home heating oil expected to rise again this winter, I believe Congress must act before the weather turns colder and before South Jersey households are faced with insurmountable heating bills."
The "Home Energy Affordability Tax Relief Act" (H.R. 6321) would provide a $500 tax credit for individuals and families who spend more than $1,500 on home heating costs during the winter season. Households spending less than $1,500 would receive a credit equal to one third of their heating costs. Introduced by Representative John McHugh (NY-23), the tax credit would apply to individual tax filers making under $50,000 ($100,000 for joint filers) and applicable to renters and homeowners. Eligible heating fuels include, but are not limited to, electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, wood and wood pellets.
On the supply-and-demand side, H.R. 6473 would create mandatory, incremental releases from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve if the price of heating oil is over $4 per gallon from November 2008 through March 2009. Established in 2000, the Reserve was created as an emergency response to interruptions in heating oil supply and is designed to serve the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the New England states - a region that contains 5.3 million households that use heating oil. Introduced by Representative Paul Hodes (NH-02), H.R. 6473 would allow heating oil from the reserve to be released if the President found that high prices were causing a threat to public safety and health. Any revenue derived from releases of the reserve would be put towards the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and related weatherization assistance programs for low-income individuals, the elderly and the disabled.
LoBiondo has long worked to provide consumers assistance with heating their homes. In December 2007, LoBiondo joined with 85 of his House colleagues in petitioning President Bush to include $5.1 billion in the 2009 budget for the LIHEAP, which provides federal block grants to states to assist low-income households in home heating costs. In addition to helping to pay energy bills for low-income families and the elderly, LIHEAP helps to fund energy crisis intervention programs, low-cost residential weatherization and other energy-related home repairs. LoBiondo was pleased by today's announcement that an additional $3,723,658 in LIHEAP funding would be headed to New Jersey, bringing the Fiscal Year 2008 total to $108,707,316.
"LIHEAP funding is critically important especially for our vulnerable seniors who would otherwise be forced to choose between food, rent, prescription drugs and their ability to pay heating costs. Record high energy prices necessitate increased program resources to ensure that no South Jersey family is forced to suffer through a severe winter without heat. I will continue to fight for additional LIHEAP funds which make a real difference to South Jersey residents," concluded LoBiondo.