Dear Majority Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi:
As our states prepare for the coming winter heating season, we are deeply concerned over reports that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding in FY2012 could be reduced by as much as 50 percent. This reduction would jeopardize meaningful assistance for the most vulnerable low income households struggling to pay unaffordable home energy bills. We recognize that you face difficult budget decisions in the coming days. However, as home heating fuel prices continue their upward trend, we
respectfully urge you to support LIHEAP funding at the level of $5.1 billion, the last level Congress authorized.
Households in the Northeast face some of the nation's highest home heating bills due to the long winter heating season and heating fuel prices that typically exceed national average prices regardless of the fuel used. Households in our states are more likely to be dependent on expensive delivered fuels, such as home heating oil or propane. In August, home heating oil prices in the Northeast were approximately $3.80/gallon -- a 15 percent increase over 2008 prices and a more than 25 percent increase over 2010. The Energy
Information Administration projects that the price of home heating oil will reach $4.00/gallon this winter. At these prices, the cost of filling a typical tank is over $1,000.
If LIHEAP funding in FY2012 is reduced to the level of $2.57 billion, our states will be required to take drastic measures that will endanger the most vulnerable LIHEAP households. As outlined in the enclosed fact sheet prepared by the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG), these include reducing benefit levels from 25 to up to 50 percent, tightening eligibility standards, or delaying payments until the coldest part of the winter or shutting the program down when the weather is still cold. Each option holds potential risks for the households, particularly the 60 percent of LIHEAP households in the Northeast with income below the federal poverty level of $15,000 for a two-person household. Changing LIHEAP eligibility standards could cut off households from other public and private assistance such as shut off moratoriums and assistance with paying down arrearages. If the basic LIHEAP benefit is reduced as much as 50 percent
this winter, it would not cover the cost of the minimum delivery required by home heating fuel dealers.
We urge you to support a funding level of $5.1 billion in FY2012 so that this vital program can continue to offer modest yet urgently needed relief to millions of our nation's most vulnerable households struggling with unaffordable energy bills.
Dannel P. Malloy
Paul R. LePage
Deval L. Patrick
John H. Lynch
Lincoln D. Chafee