WASHINGTON – In an effort to help millions of Americans who are struggling with their energy bills as winter approaches, a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. Senators, led by Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and including U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), is calling on the Obama Administration to release federal heating aid funds.

The senators sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday urging her to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at as high a level as possible. 

“LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months,” the senators wrote.
“This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.” 

“As the relevant state agencies begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.” 

Recently, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released their Winter Fuels Outlook report, which projects that household expenditures for natural gas, propane, and electric heating will be higher this winter.  Home heating oil prices are expected to be modestly lower.  The report also noted that the Northeast is expected to be 3 percent colder than the previous winter.

Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.

The letter can be viewed as a PDF here: http://bit.ly/1bKdljW

Text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the winter, we respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.

As the relevant state agencies begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.    

We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents. 

Sincerely,

Reed

Collins

Ayotte

Baldwin

Begich

Blumenthal

Brown

Cardin

Casey

Coons

Durbin

Franken

Gillibrand

Hirono

Tim Johnson

Heitkamp

Kaine

King

Klobuchar

Landrieu

Leahy

Levin

Manchin

Markey

Menendez

Merkley

Murkowski

Murphy