U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor this week said Arkansas needs additional funding to help residents cool their homes in light of the record high temperatures this summer. Lincoln and Pryor called on the White House to release additional funding through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally-funded initiative administered by states and local community action agencies, that helps thousands of low- to- moderate-income Arkansans and residents across the country pay for home energy.
"With the record-breaking hot weather that has gripped Arkansans for weeks, families have been forced to use more energy," said Lincoln. "This will inevitably lead to even higher energy bills in the weeks ahead. I commend our Arkansas utilities and community action agencies for working to keep our families cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Releasing additional LIHEAP funding will help thousands of Arkansas families and seniors with their energy bills."
"The record high temperatures that Arkansas has experienced this summer have caused energy bills to skyrocket and put a real strain on Arkansans' pocketbooks," Pryor said. "Many families could not keep up with these costs, and now have nowhere to turn. This additional funding is needed now to help struggling Arkansans make ends meet and avoid potentially dangerous situations."
This year, Arkansas received $36.4 million in LIHEAP funds to assist 75,000 households in the state, including a growing number of working families that are struggling through tough economic times. The funds are provided through the FY2010 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill.
LIHEAP provides one-time payments to families to help defray the cost of home energy. The total payment amount depends on individuals' circumstances, annual income, and family size. Payments are made directly to the electric and gas utilities.
The full text of the Senators' letter is included below:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to thank you for your support of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that provides aid to low-income families and urge you to release the remaining contingency resources as soon as possible to address the needs of families and seniors who are experiencing a record heat wave this summer. With energy bills remaining high and economic conditions challenging for many Americans, LIHEAP has never been more vital in protecting millions of low-income families, senior citizens and disabled individuals from extreme weather conditions.
The Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association dispersed about $10 million for residential cooling this summer. After an initial surge of applications, the state Department of Human Services told the association to close the program after only 10 days and to reserve the rest of its money for crisis funding. Many families who sought help with their June utility bills may not be able to receive help for their July and August bills, which are expected to be higher.
Releasing the remaining LIHEAP funding will help thousands of Arkansas families and seniors with their energy bills. Less burdened by energy bills, these low-income families have more to spend on other essentials, and can avoid the choice between paying energy bills and putting food on their table.
Again, we respectfully request that you release the remaining LIHEAP funding to meet the immediate emergency needs, and we urge you to maintain the federal commitment to low-income energy assistance.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor