Shaheen and Hassan join Senators Reed, Collins and bipartisan group of lawmakers in urging Biden administration to swiftly make LIHEAP funds available to states
(Washington, DC) – With colder weather around the corner and energy costs projected to precipitously increase this winter, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as swiftly and at the highest level possible.
The Senators wrote, “As the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, LIHEAP provides critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. October marks the start of the heating season for many states and low-income families and seniors will be facing additional strains on their household budgets. In addition, millions of low-income families, including seniors, are facing new and severe financial hardship due to the coronavirus, making the assistance provided through LIHEAP more important than ever.”
Nationwide, an estimated 5.3 million households received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP in 2020. The average cost of home heating is unaffordable for millions of low-income households, costing over $900 per year nationally.
With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas, and other fuels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting increasing prices for home heating this winter. The EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook reports households nationwide could see their heating bills jump as much as 54 percent over last winter. The EIA projects average bills of $1,734 for home heating oil, up from an average of $1,210 last year for the Northeast. The EIA also projects that Northeast customers who use natural gas will see their bills rise to $865, up from $731 last year. New England, which experiences colder winters than the rest of the region, could be pinched even harder.
The Senators concluded their letter, “As state agencies work to prepare their LIHEAP programs for the coming winter, it is crucial that they have the resources they need to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible, especially in light of the current health crisis. As such, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds at the highest level possible to allow states to prepare for the upcoming season, so that low-income households do not have to choose between paying for heat and affording other necessities like food or medicine.”
The bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Warner (D-VA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
Text of the letter is available here.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, ensuring Granite State families and seniors have access to heating and energy assistance has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. Shaheen has historically saved and boosted funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which former President Trump’s budget proposals repeatedly sought to eliminate. In addition to the $900 million in LIHEAP funds allocated through the CARES Act, Shaheen and Hassan worked to secure $3.75 billion for LIHEAP in fiscal year 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law.
Senator Hassan is working across the aisle to bring down energy costs for Granite Staters. Senators Hassan and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to help lower energy costs for families and reduce carbon emissions by expanding and extending a tax credit for energy efficient home upgrades. Key measures from the Senators’ bill were included in the bipartisan Clean Energy for America Act that recently passed the Senate Finance Committee and would help improve energy efficiency.