February 28, 2020

Senators Warren and Markey Warn Trump Not to Raid Low-Income Heating Program to Pay for Coronavirus Response

Trump administration proposal to seize $37 million from underfunded LIHEAP program could help 75,000 vulnerable American households afford their energy bills

Washington, D.C. - Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called on the Trump administration to stop any proposal to transfer money out of the already underfunded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to support the national response to the coronavirus threat. In a letter sent today to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the senators call instead for new emergency funding to combat coronavirus and point to the fact that reducing the funding for the LIHEAP program – which helps six million low-income American families across the country afford their energy bills – would mean households would have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like rent, groceries, or medicine.
“We must appropriate the necessary funding to prepare for and respond to the spread of 2019-nCoV, but I urge you to not take any action that would threaten this life-saving, critical program and to address the 2019-nCoV crisis with new emergency funding instead,” write the Massachusetts senators in their letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “LIHEAP helps low-income families across the country afford heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, saving lives and saving families from housing and food insecurity as a result of high energy bills.”
This week, Senator Warren introduced the Prioritizing Pandemic Prevention Act to require all funds appropriated to build a border wall--including funds directly appropriated by Congress and funds diverted by the executive branch from other accounts--to be immediately transferred to HHS and the United States Agency for International Development for the purpose of combatting the novel coronavirus. The legislation came amidst reports that the Trump Administration was transferring $37 million to coronavirus efforts from LIHEAP.
In November 2019, Senators Warren and Markey called on HHS to quickly release LIHEAP funding for FY2020 so that state agencies could prepare their LIHEAP programs for the upcoming winter, and commended the agency when it did so.
In October 2019, Senator Warren discussed the importance of LIHEAP for Massachusetts families in a statement to the Massachusetts Association for Community Action's (MASSCAP) fuel assistance kickoff event in Saugus, Massachusetts.