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Letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health & Human Services

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined a bipartisan group of Senators urging the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible to help families struggling through the economic downturn keep their homes warm this winter.

"The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an indispensable lifeline for low-income households," the Senators wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "As state agencies prepare their LIHEAP programs for the winter, we request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution."

The Senators noted that the cost of heating oil is projected by the Energy Information Administration to be 10 percent higher this winter than last winter, making it harder for low-income families who spend a higher proportion of their income on energy to make ends meet. "While these prices would be challenging under the best of times, elevated levels of unemployment across our states will make this year's heating season an even greater struggle," the Senators wrote.

The letter was also signed by Senators Reed, Snowe, Gillibrand, Kerry, Stabenow, Murray, Mikulski, Scott Brown, Lautenberg, Schumer, Blumenthal, Rockefeller, Sherrod Brown, Begich, Shaheen, Collins, Sanders, Bingaman, Leahy, Levin, Wyden, Whitehouse, Menendez, Lieberman, Kohl, Franken, Murkowski, Tester, Durbin, Coons, Merkley and Klobuchar.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an indispensable lifeline for low-income households. As state agencies prepare their LIHEAP programs for the winter, we request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.

Low-income families spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and this is particularly true during times of extreme temperatures and increased energy prices. For many states, the beginning of October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on household budgets. For example, the Energy Information Administration projects that the price of heating oil will be 10 percent higher this winter than last, the highest average winter price ever predicted. While these prices would be challenging under the best of times, elevated levels of unemployment across our states will make this year's heating season an even greater struggle. In addition, demand for LIHEAP has always been greater than the available funding, and the number of low-income households eligible for LIHEAP in 2012 is projected to remain at historic levels.

The President signed into law a continuing resolution that provides funding for federal programs through November 18, 2011. We recognize that this does not provide certainty about the ultimate funding level for the LIHEAP program for Fiscal Year 2012. It is critical, however, that the pertinent state agencies begin the process of determining the level of heating assistance for this winter. For this reason, we request that you release funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for what will be a challenging winter.

We look forward to working with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.


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