Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) urges Congress to keep the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) a priority, as the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education’s vote today cut funding by $1.5 billion, providing only $3.6 billion, which is substantially lower than the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 level of $4.7 billion.
AGA has been joined by hundreds of organizations and companies throughout the country in a letter to Members of Congress calling on them to provide at least $5.1 billion for LIHEAP for FY2012.
“Given the lack of growth in the economy and job creation, America’s poorest and most vulnerable face the prospect of a being left out in the cold this winter if they are not equipped to pay their bills,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “AGA urges the Congress to build confidence for Americans in need as it decides on 2012 appropriations priorities by making LIHEAP a priority.”
LIHEAP provides seasonal help to roughly 8.9 million families – approximately 23 million people and the demand for increased assistance across the country continues to grow. 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 2008, statistics show that wages for working Americans have decreased and unemployment figures have risen. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has put tens of millions of Americans in a desperately precarious financial state. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 15.1 percent of the nation – more than 46 million Americans – lives in poverty.
The President’s FY 2012 budget request proposes reducing funding for LIHEAP back to the 2008 level of $2.57 billion. Such a reduction would preclude 3.1 million families from receiving LIHEAP’s benefit, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. This level of funding would prevent 8 million Americans from receiving assistance. Most of those who would be cut off are likely to be elderly, disabled, or at-risk pre-school children.
“In this time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, LIHEAP is often the only thing that stands between a family’s choice to heat or eat. No member of Congress wants their constituents to be faced with that choice, so we ask them to act now and fund LIHEAP at $5.1 billion,” McCurdy said.