After a push from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Obama Administration today will release additional emergency LIHEAP funds to help families during the ongoing propane shortage. Yesterday, the Senators sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the Administration to expedite the release of emergency LIHEAP funds to deliver much-needed relief to impacted families. In response to the Senators' request, the Administration announced today that it is releasing a total of more than $450 million in additional LIHEAP funding to help families heat their homes, including $15.8 million for Minnesota and $14.2 million for Wisconsin. In Minnesota there are more than 200,000 homes that rely on propane as their main source of heat. In Wisconsin there are 250,000 households that rely on propane energy to heat their homes.
"As more cold weather bears down on Minnesota, it's absolutely critical that families are able to heat their homes and stay warm," Klobuchar said. "I'm very pleased that the Administration has acted swiftly on our request to release emergency LIHEAP funding, which will help deliver much-needed relief to families impacted by the ongoing propane shortage across Minnesota."
"The propane shortage in Minnesota has reached a crisis point," Franken said. "That's why I've been pressing the President to release emergency heating assistance to Minnesotans over this past week. I'm pleased the Obama Administration took this action to help ease the burden for Minnesotans struggling to heat their homes. With severe temperatures still hitting Minnesota hard, I'll keep doing everything in my power to address this serious issue."
"Rural homeowners across Wisconsin are experiencing crisis conditions due to the propane supply shortage and resulting price hikes in the Midwest," Baldwin said. "I applaud the Obama Administration for taking this action in response to the crisis faced by Wisconsin families and businesses. It is my hope that Governor Walker will embrace this federal funding and put it to work providing much needed relief to Wisconsinites."
The full text of the Senators' letter to HHS is below:
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
We write about the worsening propane shortage and the impact this disaster is having on families in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and ask that you immediately release emergency Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to our states.
The extreme cold weather combined with transportation bottlenecks stifling propane distribution as well as other factors have caused prices for this fuel to spike and remain at extreme levels. This is harming families who are struggling with prices that have more than doubled over the last month. Despite the recent increase in shipments of propane by truck to Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Propane Gas Association expects the supply shortage to continue in the near term, which will only increase the hardship this shortage is causing for families in our states.
We appreciate your expedited action on this request for emergency Low Income Energy Assistance Program grants for impacted states.