U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) urged the Obama Administration to prioritize the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in its upcoming budget today during a conference call. In a letter to the Administration, Casey said that older Pennsylvanians, in particular, will be in need of heating assistance as winter begins to set in across the Commonwealth.
"LIHEAP is a cost-effective program that helps Pennsylvanians heat their homes and provides a boost to the economy, I'm hopeful the Administration will prioritize LIHEAP funding in its budget." said Senator Casey. "I am concerned that the number of eligible households continues to far exceed those receiving assistance and additional cuts will leave Pennsylvanians out in the cold."
This month, Senator Casey sent a letter to the President requesting that LIHEAP is funded at no less than $4.7 billion in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. In the past, the President has proposed 50% cut in funds, while the number of LIHEAP-eligible households continues to exceed those receiving assistance.
Economists estimate every LIHEAP dollar generates $1.13 in economic activity. In 2011 LIHEAP provided vital energy assistance to 8.9 million households, a 54% increase since 2008. It is projected a record 9.4 million households were served in 2012.
The text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing to request that you prioritize the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in your 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 and 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 in your FY14 budget and seek to 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.