Citizens from around the country once again gathered on Capitol Hill to call for greater support of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Yesterday, the American Gas Association (AGA) joined the National Fuel Funds Network (NFFN) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) in sponsoring LIHEAP Action Day, a day-long event aimed at building awareness about LIHEAP. The federal block grant program provides financial assistance to low and fixed-income individuals for fuel and utility bills, as well as low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs.
Nearly 115 utility, fuel fund and low-income energy assistance advocates met with Congressional delegates and their staff and, for the first time, utilized social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter using hashtag #LIHEAPAction, advocating for $4.7 billion in LIHEAP funding for FY2014.
After many years of underfunding LIHEAP, Congress funded the program at $5.1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010. Since then, funding has been cut drastically from $4.7 billion in FY2011 to less than $3.5 billion for the current fiscal year. These funding cuts have resulted in smaller assistance grants and fewer households served, severely limiting the program’s effectiveness.
There are many reasons why the LIHEAP program is so critical. Here are just a few:
- About 46.2 million people live in poverty – the largest number in the 52-year history of published poverty estimates.
- A recent study found that more than half of U.S. households now devote more than 20 percent of their family budget towards energy costs.
- LIHEAP supports veterans and seniors. The number of veteran households served by LIHEAP increased by more than 150 percent over three years. Roughly 40 percent of LIHEAP recipients are seniors.
- Roughly 75 percent of households receiving assistance earn less than $15,000 a year and 50 percent earn less than $10,000 a year.
- Almost all recipient households support someone who is disabled, elderly, or have a child under six.
- Infants and toddlers living in inadequately heated or cooled households are at greater risk of serious developmental health problems.
“AGA wants every American to have access to the benefits of clean, domestic natural gas,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “No one should need to choose between heating or cooling their home and other basic human needs. Utilities are providing help with bill payments and home weatherization, and are sponsoring fundraising efforts. We are proud of our member companies’ dedication in helping to ensure that vulnerable customers are able to meet their energy needs.”
LIHEAP Action Day ended with an evening reception and the presentation of the NFFN Extra Mile award given to Senator Mary, recognizing her for her continued support.