Continuing her efforts to ensure those who need help most are able to stay warm this winter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that she is supporting the "LIHEAP Protection Act" - bipartisan legislation that would set Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $4.7 billion, the same level as last year. LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income families and seniors on fixed-incomes with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during the cold winter months.
"We must ensure that New Hampshire citizens who are most in need are able to stay warm during the very cold winter months," said Senator Ayotte. "With our country facing a serious fiscal crisis, I worked to include provisions in this bill intended to fund LIHEAP in a fiscally responsible way. Also, given the need to bring greater accountability to the program, the legislation also aims to encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up recommendations on how to prevent waste, fraud and abuse within LIHEAP. Every dollar misdirected towards waste, fraud, and abuse is a dollar not being spent as intended on low-income families and seniors."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently determining LIHEAP amounts for each state based on the President's FY 2012 budget request, which proposed a 45 percent cut in LIHEAP funds from last year's level. On October 28, New Hampshire received $14.7 million in federal funding - last year the state received $34 million.
As this legislation was drafted, Senator Ayotte pushed for language asserting that any LIHEAP funding should be made a priority within existing spending allocations and be paid for by redirecting funds from lower priority programs. She also sought a provision stating that the HHS Secretary should expedite program integrity recommendations to Congress for LIHEAP, based on the Government Accountability Office's investigation and findings of waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.
The legislation was introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Bernard Sanders (I-VT). Co-sponsors, along with Ayotte, include Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Kerry (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Scott Brown (R-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).