DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 08, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 754 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 5006.
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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this important amendment, which I am pleased to join in cosponsoring.
This amendment would provide a modest boost to the funding levels for these two programs--$11 million more for LIHEAP and $11 million more for Weatherization. This additional funding is desperately needed, but it would still leave many needs unmet. LIHEAP alone needs $1 billion above the $1.9 billion level in this bill to simply maintain the purchasing power it enjoyed in 1982. Meanwhile, we are seeing greatly increased volatility in oil and natural gas markets which threaten consumers with higher home heating prices this winter. The Department of Energy reports that consumers are expected to pay 55 percent more for natural gas; 45 percent more for heating oil; and 41 percent more for propane than they did in the years between 1998 and 2000. As a result, heating a home with natural gas will cost an average of $1,049 this winter; heating with fuel oil will cost $1,094; and, heating with propane will cost $1,361.
According to the Census Bureau, nearly 36 million Americans-including almost 13 million children-now live in poverty. That is an increase of over a million people in the last year alone. Faced with a growing number of families in poverty, the Republican leadership has brought to the floor an appropriations bill that does little to help those Americans who have fallen below the poverty line. It seems the Republican leadership would rather protect President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans than lend a helping hand to the poorest Americans.
For the low income families and seniors of Massachusetts and the rest of New England, winter-and increased utility bills-will be here too soon. Many families and seniors will once again be faced with the difficult decision between heating and eating.
Two crucial programs that help low-income families and seniors deal with the high cost of heating their homes in the winter are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program. This appropriations bill's funding levels for these two crucial programs are inadequate to meet the current and growing needs of low-income Americans.
There is bipartisan support from legislators representing warm and cold climates to raise LIHEAP's funding to $3 billion, but this appropriations bill is nowhere near that level of funding. I urge my colleagues to pass this amendment today as a first step to meeting LIHEAP needs in the very near future. We owe the low-income families that rely on this program no less.
I urge adoption of the amendment.
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