In an effort to help millions of Americans who are struggling with their energy bills as winter approaches, a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. Senators, led by Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), are calling on the Obama Administration to release federal heating aid funds.
Today, the Senators sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at as high a level as possible. Earlier this year, Snowe and Reed secured language in the continuing resolution to fund LIHEAP at the Fiscal Year 2012 level of $3.47 billion nationally through March 27, 2013. Without the language, the program could have been reduced to as little as $2.82 billion during the winter months.
"It is absolutely vital federal funding for the LIHEAP program is released well in advance of winter so Maine's agencies have the time necessary to make allotments to our Mainers most in need. I strongly urge Secretary Sebelius to release these funds as quickly as possible to ensure Maine families can heat their homes during the approaching cold months," said Senator Snowe. "In Congress, we must also move heaven and earth to prioritize funding for the program. With heating oil prices as high as $3.93 per gallon in Maine, LIHEAP remains below the level it should be to ensure the most vulnerable Mainers can stay warm."
"LIHEAP helps families in need keep the heat on during the cold winter months. With winter approaching it is critical to quickly get this assistance out to ensure seniors and low-income families do not get left out in the cold," said Reed, noting that last year, Rhode Island received over $23 million in LIHEAP funding, assisting nearly 32,000 households. This year Rhode Island is expected to receive approximately the same level of LIHEAP funding across the state.
Yesterday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released their Winter Fuels Outlook report which stated that the average expenditures for households that heat with heating oil are forecast to be higher than any previous winter on record.
Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.