Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), dean of the New England Congressional delegation and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, released the following statement after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced today in its Winter Fuels Outlook that homeowners who rely on home heating oil will pay record-high fuel prices this year. At the same time, fewer federal funds from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will be available to help the most vulnerable families pay these higher heating bills. Households heating with heating oil will see their costs rise by $407 this winter. EIA announced it will cost households almost $2,500 to heat their homes with heating oil this winter, compared to under $700 nationally and just over $1,000 in the Northeast for those families using natural gas. Costs to heat with heating oil have increased nearly $1,000 dollars over the last six years, which is part of the reason why 1.4 million families have switched away from home heating oil in the Northeast over the last eight years.
"Record-high home heating costs are a chilling proposition for New England families this winter. Massachusetts residents are already managing with smaller household budgets in part due to reduced LIHEAP funding and will be contending with an above-normal snowfall forecast this winter."
More than one million fewer families across the country received LIHEAP heating assistance last year as a result of reduced funding levels. In FY2012 6.9 million families received LIHEAP assistance, down from approximately eight million in FY2011 and 8.1 million in FY2010, according to data from the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association. Total federal appropriation has declined from $5.1 billion in FY2010, to $4.7 billion in FY2011, to $3.471 billion in FY 2012.
In Massachusetts, 200,000 families received heating assistance from LIHEAP last year, a decline of nearly six percent. The average LIHEAP heating benefit for a Massachusetts family has been reduced 43 percent over the last two years to $550.
"I will be sending a letter tomorrow to Health and Human Services with a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling for the immediate release of current year's LIHEAP funding to give states the ability to begin helping those households who will need it most this winter. This LIHEAP funding will help families stay warm and make ends meet during these tough economic times. I will continue to work to ensure that critical LIHEAP funds are released as needed this winter and fight to return LIHEAP to full funding levels."
Rep. Markey led a letter on March 20, 2012, signed by 136 members of Congress, urging congressional appropriators to restore LIHEAP funding to at least its 2011 funding level of $4.7 billion.