Kerry, Kennedy urge Senate Budget Committee to provide $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in FY08 budget
Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, along with 50 other senators, today sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee urging it to provide $5.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the fiscal year 2008 budget.
They also requested that the allocation provide advanced funding for fiscal year 2009, which would enable states to pre-purchase fuel and begin planning for next winter.
"High energy prices continue to threaten the health and economic well-being of low-income households across the United States and we need to be prepared. LIHEAP is a commonsense solution. I will continue to fight in the Senate to ensure funds are available for this vital program," said Senator Kerry. "No working family - in Massachusetts or anywhere - should have to choose between heating their home and buying food for their family. Yet, without adequate funding for LIHEAP this is precisely the decision we force on families in need. We can and we must do better. "
"Congress should commit to fully funding this vital program which assists those in need of help to stay warm during the winter. It's unconscionable how the Bush Administration has repeatedly sought to cut this program which primarily serves those on fixed incomes, including the elderly and the disabled. Fully funding this program will allow more of these families to access essential heating assistance so they won't have to make impossible choices next winter between heating their homes or putting food on the table or purchasing necessary medications," said Senator Kennedy.
The text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Kent Conrad The Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on the Budget Committee on the Budget
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Conrad and Ranking Member Gregg:
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides a vital safety net for our nation's low-income households. LIHEAP helps low-income families and seniors remain healthy and secure from bitter cold winters in the North and hot summers in the South. We are writing to request that the budget provide $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in fiscal 2008, the full amount authorized, and that the allocation provide for advance appropriations for fiscal 2009.
Our request to fund LIHEAP at its full funding level is consistent with the $5.1 billion LIHEAP allocation included in the Senate passed fiscal 2007 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 83). Funding LIHEAP at this level in regular funding and advance appropriations can help working low-income families, senior citizens, and disabled individuals maintain economic stability.
For many low-income families, disabled individuals, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes, home energy costs are unaffordable. These families often carry a higher energy burden than most Americans - spending up to 17 percent of their income on home energy bills. Each year, this burden grows as natural gas, heating oil, propane, and electricity prices continue to increase.
In addition, the program helps low-income homeowners weatherize their homes to save energy and lower their energy burden. Weatherization, on average, reduces heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $200 to $250 per year.
Energy is a basic need, and without LIHEAP assistance, low-income families and senior citizens face the impossible choice between paying their home energy bills or affording other basic necessities such as prescription drugs, housing, and food. In 2005, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) surveyed over 2,000 LIHEAP recipients on the choices made by households when faced with high-energy bills. The survey found that in the last five years:
· 44% skipped paying or paid less than their entire home energy bill in the past year. (Households with children or households with income below 50% of the poverty level were more likely to do so,);
· 47% went without medical or dental care due to unaffordable energy bills in the past five years;
· 32% did not fill their prescriptions or took less than their full dose of a prescribed medicine due to energy bills in the past five years;
· 16% became ill in the past five years because their home was too cold.
We also request $5.1 billion in advance funding for LIHEAP in fiscal 2009. Advance funding enables states to pre-purchase fuel and start planning for the winter heating season in spring and early summer as well as plan for a summer cooling program. Advance LIHEAP funding allows states to plan more efficiently and improve program management, and therefore, be more economical with limited federal resources. It also ensures that states provide timely assistance to low-income families who cannot afford to wait.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you to make sure that working families, seniors, and disabled individuals have the resources necessary to provide for their basic energy needs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
John D. Rockefeller