Carper, Coons, Reed seek to deliver lifesaving LIHEAP utility assistance
Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, joined Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and 41 of their Senate colleagues on a letter urging Congressional leaders to boost funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the next pandemic relief package.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills by providing payment and energy crisis assistance. With temperatures dropping, gas and electricity bills mounting and continued high rates of COVID-19, the senators say it is critical to keep people safe, stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent vulnerable Americans from having their utilities shutoff and accumulating debts they cannot afford to pay.
“The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer,” the senators wrote. “State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.”
LIHEAP has bipartisan support and a proven track record of effectively administering federal funds to qualified households. The senators are urging additional LIHEAP funding be included as part of a comprehensive federal COVID-19 response that protects vulnerable American households across the country.
The letter notes: “Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.”
“LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine,” wrote the senators. “Yet the annual funding for LIHEAP is only able to provide benefits to approximately one in six eligible households. We appreciate the $900 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP, but those funds are now fully obligated and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with their growing bills.”
In addition to the $900 million in LIHEAP funds through the CARES Act, Congress also worked together on a bipartisan basis to provide $3.7 billion for LIHEAP in 2020.
The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/3avGdCK.