Washington, D.C. –The American Gas Association (AGA) joined a diverse group of nearly 300 organizations yesterday to urge Congress to maintain funding for a federal program that helps almost 9 million low-income and elderly Americans heat their homes during winter months and cool them during summer months.
“I understand the fiscal realities Congress is facing, but these budget cuts aren’t just numbers on a page. They translate into significantly colder nights and hotter days for millions of American families struggling to make ends meet,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “Without proper heating and cooling, this vulnerable segment of the population faces an increased risk of serious health effects, especially during extreme weather events like the series of severe storms and cold temperatures we’ve seen this winter.”
In a letter delivered yesterday to each member of the U.S. House and Senate, AGA and groups ranging from A Partnership for a Better Tomorrow to the Ute Indian Tribe asked Congress to continue to fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $5.1 billion for both the current and upcoming fiscal years. The House passed a federal funding bill this month that would cut LIHEAP by $400 million.
“The number of households receiving assistance reached record levels this year, increasing from 7.7 million to 8.8 million,” the letter states. “Even though Congress funded LIHEAP at the $5.1 billion level [in previous years], that amount was still only enough to assist one-in-five eligible Americans.”
LIHEAP is a block grant program that extends federal funds to state home energy assistance programs for low-income households, which struggle to heat their homes in the winter and cool them during the hot summer months.
The coalition letter warns that reduced LIHEAP funding for the poor, unemployed and even some middle-income Americans “could force them to make painful choices between heating their homes or paying for other necessities such as food, medicine and clothing.”
Congress is still debating a stop-gap measure to continue funding federal programs beyond March 4, when current federal funding levels expire.