Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today called on President Obama not to cut heating assistance for low income families in the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012.
"I've always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens," Kerry wrote this afternoon after reports surfaced that budget cuts could be made to the Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) "I request that the administration preserve LIHEAP funding at least to the Fiscal Year 2010 funding at $5.1 billion when it submits its FY12 budget proposal to Congress."
This past November, Kerry along with his colleagues in the Senate sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran requesting that they maintain funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the Fiscal Year 2010 level, $5.1 billion, through September 30, 2011, in any appropriations bill that Congress considers prior to the conclusion of the current Continuing Resolution.
On December 17, 2010, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kerry again urged the extension of home heating oil program at last year's funding levels in the short-term Continuing Resolution to help "low-income families cope during this tough economic climate."
In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius earlier this month, Sen. Kerry requested that a commitment of funding assistance be made as soon as possible to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.
As the result of these collective efforts, on January 11 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an additional $1.6 billion in LIHEAP block grant funds, bringing the total available under the March 4th Continuing Resolution to $3.95 billion. On January 25 HHS announced an additional $200 million in emergency contingency funds, bringing the total LIHEAP funding available for FY2011 to $4.14 billion.
The full text of today's letter is below:
February 9, 2011
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to express my deep concern about the potential for extreme cuts in the Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that -- judging by today's news reports -- may be included in the administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2012.
I understand that difficult cuts have to be made, and from Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction to the 1993 deficit reduction act I've always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens. I request that the administration preserve LIHEAP funding at least to the Fiscal Year 2010 funding at $5.1 billion when it submits its FY12 budget proposal to Congress.
We simply cannot afford to cut LIHEAP funding during one of the most brutal winters in history. Families across Massachusetts, and the country, depend on these monies to heat their homes and survive the season. It is estimated that over 3 million families that qualify for heating assistance would not receive it if the funding levels are not maintained. Compounding the situation is the increased cost of home heating oil, which is roughly 12 percent higher than last year.
LIHEAP is already strained as it is -- I have submitted requests for that last several years to increase the overall funding because the assistance didn't match the need. Cutting the program now would be devastating to the Northeast that depends on this support. If an increase is not an option we must do everything we can not to leave children and families out in the cold.
I again request that you maintain level funding at $5.1 billion for the LIHEAP program and provide vital heating assistance this winter. Thank you for your consideration.
John F. Kerry