Congress members call for additional LIHEAP funding

Published on December 14, 2022 by Liz Carey

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U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) are asking Congress to include an extra $500 million in funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the federal budget.

As negotiators look to finalize spending for the 2023 fiscal year, the Congress members said more money for LIHEAP is necessary as increases to utility bills are anticipated this winter. Residential electricity prices in some states are expected to rise more than 60 percent, the lawmakers said, with propane expected to rise to 40 percent and natural gas prices up nearly 30 percent. LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their energy bills.

“While we recognize the competing priorities you must balance, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available funding,” the Congress members wrote. “Meanwhile, the average cost of heating oil is nearly 70 percent higher than last year, and natural gas is 20 percent higher, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As these prices go up, the purchasing power of LIHEAP’s appropriations goes down. This leaves states in the position of making tough choices about the amount of assistance they will provide and the number of people they will serve with the limited funding available. Ensuring that LIHEAP is well-funded will help guarantee that the program has the resources it needs to help as many eligible, low-income households and seniors as possible.”

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association said the average cost to heat a home is expected to increase to $1,208 this winter, up 17.2 percent from last year’s $1,031.

Collins, Reed, and Golden are leading efforts to include $4 billion for LIHEAP in the FY 2023 appropriations package but are asking for another $500 million in anticipation of a “winter heating crisis.”