Today, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06) visited the Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB) headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ to highlight the importance of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding, especially during cold winter months. LIHEAP assists eligible individuals and families by providing a benefit that goes toward lowering their heating and cooling bills. PRAB handles all LIHEAP applications for Middlesex County.
LIHEAP is the main federal program that assists low-income households with their energy costs. More than 90 percent of LIHEAP beneficiaries have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households have at least one resident who is a veteran, according to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association (NEADA). Funding for LIHEAP, which was started in 1981, was reduced as a result of sequestration and other cuts over the last several years, leaving 1.5 million households without access to this critical assistance.
"LIHEAP provides a vital safety net for our nation's most vulnerable citizens," said Congressman Pallone. "The record breaking and life threatening cold that has swept much of the country this winter is a reminder of the critical importance of energy assistance programs, like LIHEAP. In a difficult economy, LIHEAP funding continues to be a lifeline for so many households. During the coldest months of the year, families should not have to choose between paying to heat their homes and paying for groceries."
Pallone discussed the burden of high energy costs, particularly on low-income families. Utility bills are yet another example of the basic necessities that have become increasingly difficult for low-income families to afford, especially with the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits on December 28, 2013.
Yesterday, Congressman Pallone signed a letter to President Obama, along with more than 120 Members of Congress, asking that the President restore LIHEAP funding in his FY 2015 budget to the 2011 funding level. Currently, funding is set at $3.4 billion based on the Omnibus Appropriations Act passed in January 2014. The bipartisan group highlighted the fact that funding for LIHEAP has declined more than 30% in recent years, but energy costs have continued to increase. Pallone and his colleagues urged President Obama to prioritize LIHEAP by including no less than $4.7 billion for the program in his FY 2015 budget.
Originally founded in 1969, PRAB is a comprehensive human services organization in Middlesex County. PRAB spearheads a number of critical social services programs for low and moderate-income residents of Central New Jersey, including providing resources for at-risk youth, early childhood education, housing counseling, and weatherization services. PRAB has managed LIHEAP for Middlesex County since 1996. LIHEAP applications are accepted in person at their locations in New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, and Carteret until April 30th.