Release of funds would benefit low-income New Hampshire families struggling with extreme temperatures and high energy costs
As extreme cold weather continues to bear down on New Hampshire and much of the country, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today called on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius to immediately release New Hampshire's federal heating aid funds included in the recently passed government funding bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The release of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds would allow low-income families and seniors in New Hampshire to access the critical assistance more quickly.
"The combination of extremely low temperatures and high energy costs are putting significant strain on New Hampshire families this winter, and LIHEAP assistance is needed now," said Shaheen and Ayotte in a letter today to Secretary Sebelius. "We urge you to immediately release New Hampshire's full share of LIHEAP funds."
In recent years, the struggling U.S. economy and high energy prices have caused record numbers of Americans to apply for home heating assistance. Currently, however, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP continues to surpass those able to receive assistance. Shaheen and Ayotte have partnered together to advocate for LIHEAP funding which is critical to so many New Hampshire families. Funding for LIHEAP increased by $169 million between FY 2013 and FY 2014.
The full text of the letter is included below.
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
As this winter's freezing temperatures and high-heating costs continue to impact families in New Hampshire, we write to request that the Department of Health and Human Services immediately release New Hampshire's remaining share of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as appropriated in the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.
As you know, LIHEAP is the main federal program that provides low-income families with vital heating assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Even though the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance, this funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn and as energy costs have continued to rise, helping to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine. Federal sequestration cuts have also reduced LIHEAP grants for New Hampshire by $1.6 million this year, resulting in 1,200 fewer families receiving assistance in our state, and a reduction in the amount of assistance for families still participating in the program.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that household expenditures this winter for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 17 percent and 8 percent, respectively. While the average household in New Hampshire uses 800 gallons of fuel oil, the average fuel assistance benefit is $730, which pays for only about 200 gallons of fuel oil. A sharp rise in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic natural gas and power demand also spurred record-high natural gas storage withdrawals.
The combination of extremely low temperatures and high energy costs are putting significant strain on New Hampshire families this winter, and LIHEAP assistance is needed now. We urge you to immediately release New Hampshire's full share of LIHEAP funds.
Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.
Jeanne Shaheen Kelly Ayotte
United States Senator United States Senator