September 25, 2013

Markey, Warren Call for Full Funding of LIHEAP in Continuing Resolution

200,000 MA families depend on home energy program each year

Washington (September 25, 2013) - With winter on the horizon and as Congress debates a spending plan for the remainder of the year, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined with 32 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership calling for maintaining funding of $3.46 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in any upcoming continuing resolution. Nationwide, LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors pay their energy bills during the cold winter months. In order to prevent added uncertainty and a decrease in the funding available during the coming winter heating season, the Senators call for language in any spending bill to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to release the full amount of each state's LIHEAP allocation at the FY 2012 level.

"We cannot allow threats of a government shutdown to force Americans to shut off their thermostats this winter due to cuts to this vital home energy program," said Senator Markey. "Sequestration is already leading to devastating benefit cuts to LIHEAP on top of the reductions that have occurred since 2010. Massachusetts residents are managing with smaller household budgets in part due to reduced LIHEAP funding. I will continue to work with Senators Reed and Collins and all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that critical home heating funds are protected during budget negotiations and in the winter months ahead."

"LIHEAP funding is essential to making sure families who are struggling to make ends meet can heat their homes and stay safe," said Senator Warren. "This important funding has already been threatened by the sequester, and now it faces additional serious cuts. This doesn't make any sense, and we should act now to restore funding for this critical program. I applaud Senators Reed and Collins for their efforts to preserve LIHEAP funding, and I will continue fighting to make sure families have access to the heating assistance they need."

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Higher energy prices and the recovering economy have forced record numbers of Americans to apply for home heating assistance in recent years, and the number of households eligible for the program continues to significantly exceed those able to receive assistance. Yet despite these challenges, in recent years there have been significant reductions to LIHEAP funding. Nationally, funding for LIHEAP has been decreased by more than a third over the last four years, leading to funding cuts of more than $60 million for Massachusetts over that time. As a result, the average LIHEAP benefit for a Massachusetts family fell more than 40 percent from FY2010 to FY2012. In Massachusetts roughly 200,000 families received heating assistance from LIHEAP in FY2012, a decline of nearly six percent from the previous year.