Unprecedented Support from Congress for LIHEAP Funding
Last week, the American Gas Association (AGA) sent an open letter of appeal to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to continue funding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $5.1 Billion in Fiscal Year 2012.
The resounding bipartisan support from the halls of Congress was incredibly strong, demonstrating how critical this program really is. There were a grand total of 614 people who signed onto the letter, and we are sure you will agree, this support is both impressive and encouraging.
So, why is this support so critical?
LIHEAP is an efficient and highly effective program that delivers critical short-term seasonal aid to our most vulnerable neighbors, especially the elderly, many of whom are on fixed incomes. These payments serve as “bridges,” making it possible to avoid shutoffs so that these households do not have to make the difficult choice between paying for their home energy bills or food, medicine and other necessities.
The increased demand for LIHEAP assistance across the country is undeniable. In 2008, 33.8 million households met LIHEAP’s strict eligibility requirements. Yet, there was only enough money in the program to serve 5.7 million households. Since then, rising unemployment has driven record numbers of Americans, many for the first time, to seek help from this program.
In addition, energy prices have increased substantially in recent years and are projected to remain high in many parts of the country. For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirms that the average cost of heating with heating oil jumped 59 percent from $1,337 to $2,124 this winter.
These increases, along with the doubling of gasoline prices in the last two years and the increase in poverty rates have placed incredible pressures on at-risk Americans. LIHEAP is not an entitlement. It can only provide assistance if Congress appropriates these vital funds, which are very urgently needed.
This is why AGA is so pleased to inform you about the recent show of support and we hope to see it continue as we head in to the hot summer months.