Energy Industry Pushing Congress for Critical Energy Assistance Dollars
Washington, D.C. - In a letter sent to U.S. House and Senate leadership, seven energy industry trade associations are urging Congress to fully fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at a level of $5.1 billion.
LIHEAP is a federal block grant program that provides financial assistance to low income families for energy bills and low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs. This critical program provides heating and cooling assistance to the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, those with disabilities and suffering from chronic illnesses, and families with young children. In the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies recently released FY21 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, LIHEAP is slated for $3.8 billion in funding in FY21, well under a fully authorized level of $5.1 billion.
“Natural gas utilities support their customers and communities through a variety of programs, and LIHEAP is one of the most vital, helping those who need assistance the most—this support is more important than ever at a time when we are facing challenges no one could have predicted,” said Karen Harbert, President and CEO, American Gas Association.
“Funds provided by LIHEAP play a vital role in helping low-income families meet their energy needs. Without LIHEAP funding assistance many low-income families face the difficult choice between paying their energy bills or paying for other necessities, such as prescription drugs, food and childcare. Given the challenges we are currently facing, the assistance that LIHEAP funding provides to struggling Americans is critically important,” said Dave Schryver, President & CEO, American Public Gas Association.
“LIHEAP is a worthy and time-tested program that has worked well for the customers of the more than 2,000 community-owned public power utilities throughout the U.S. Now more than ever, Americans—particularly those in vulnerable populations—are looking for a helping hand to get them through these unprecedented times. If adequately funded, this program can—and will—make a tremendous difference,” said Joy Ditto, President & CEO, American Public Power Association.
“More than five million homes in the Northeast rely on conventional or biofuel-blended heating oil. This region has been hard hit by the pandemic - especially low income families, seniors, and unemployed Americans. Full LIHEAP funding reassures these vulnerable consumers, and the Main Street businesses that serve them, that fuel assistance will be available no matter what this coming fall and winter may bring,” said Sean Cota, President & CEO, National Energy & Fuels Institute.
“Since the pandemic struck, the Edison Electric Institute’s member electric companies have expanded their well-established programs for customers suffering hardships, informed them about payment assistance options, and worked to set up flexible payment arrangements with them,” said Tom Kuhn, President, Edison Electric Institute. “EEI and our members are long-time advocates for LIHEAP and are calling on Congress to ensure that LIHEAP support is available to every American family that qualifies.”
Even the healthiest of economic circumstances, LIHEAP can only serve one in five eligible families. But today, Americans are experiencing unprecedented economic challenges. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 47 million Americans have filed for unemployment. And requests for LIHEAP assistance are increasing, already stretching the program’s capability.
Signed by the American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, National Energy & Fuels Institute, National Propane Gas Association, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the letter states: “Appropriating a fully authorized $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in FY21 will by no means solve America’s energy poverty problem. However, with additional funding, the program can expand utility bill payment assistance to millions more Americans experiencing unemployment and other economic hardship in the coming months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” urging funding of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $5.1 billion in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies FY21 appropriations bill.
The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 76 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 72 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than thirty percent of the United States' energy needs.