With temperatures quickly dropping, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) today continued his efforts to help struggling Minnesota families afford to heat their homes this winter by urging President Obama to ensure adequate funding for federal home heating assistance.
In a letter to the President, Sen. Franken pressed for additional support for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income households and seniors afford rising energy bills.
"It's heartbreaking to know that high energy bills are forcing some Minnesotans to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table," said Sen. Franken. "Heating assistance provides families and seniors with the critical help they need to stay warm during harsh Minnesota winters and I am urging the President to make more of this vital funding available."
Since taking office, Sen. Franken has successfully fought to ensure that tens of millions of dollars in emergency LIHEAP funding have been available to low-income Minnesota families and seniors.
The bipartisan letter was also signed by 39 of Sen. Franken's Senate colleagues.
The full text of Sen. Franken's letter to the President can be read below.
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to request that you prioritize the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in yow- Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget proposal by including no less than $4.7 billion for this critical support for our least fortunate.
LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Energy costs are challenging for the budgets of American households. In fact, according to a recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, household expenditures this winter for heating oil and natural gas are projected to increase by 19 percent and 15 percent respectively. While this constrains middle-income households, it disproportionately affects low-income households, many of which are seniors and on fixed-incomes. Moreover, with Social Security benefits increasing by only 1.7 percent this year, or an average of $19 per month, many elderly Americans will be facing difficult choices to simply provide a basic level of comfort in their home.
As supporters of the LIHEAP program we are very cognizant of the challenges that our discretionary budget faces in FY14. However, we are deeply concerned that funding for the program has declined 32 percent in recent years to $3.47 billion last year at the same time the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance. As a result, we urge you to reprioritize this program within your FY14 budget and restore funding to this indispensable program to a level of $4.7 billion.
We thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important priority.