Office of Congresswoman Shea-Porter - Shea-Porter Urges President Bush to Provide Funding for Critical Heating Assistance Program

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter announced today that she has urged President Bush to immediately providing funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  Shea-Porter, along with 51 House colleagues, sent a letter to the President requesting the immediate release $120 million in the LIHEAP contingency fund. 

It is critical that LIHEAP receive proper funding so our most vulnerable citizens do not have to suffer from the cold,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “Hard-working Americans should not have to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes.  I urge the President to release this funding today.”

Properly funding LIHEAP is critical to protecting New Hampshire seniors and children.  Last year’s record high energy costs resulted in many New Hampshire families carrying larger balances with their home heating venders.  Without assistance from LIHEAP, many families may not be able to pay off their balances in time, and will be unable to receive their first delivery of oil when the winter months draw near.  Additionally, heating oil prices are expected to rise by almost 50% this year.   

Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a strong advocate for LIHEAP funding.   Earlier this year, she testified before the House Budget Committee and called for a “robust funding level.”   Last year, Congresswoman Shea-Porter urged President Bush to properly fund the program by releasing the remaining contingency funds and helped pass an omnibus bill that included $2.6 billion in funding.

The complete text of the letter is attached.

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to immediately release $120 million available in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency fund to address the needs of families and seniors across the nation.  Due to the urgency of this crisis, we request that you release funds in no less than two weeks of today’s date.

In some areas of the country, many families are still reeling from the high energy prices from this past winter. In other areas of the country, we have already seen hotter than normal temperatures.  For low-income households, LIHEAP is an important safety net and will save many from making the tough choice between paying their energy bill or putting food on the table.

As you release contingency funds, we urge you to consider several factors: the threat of utility shutoffs for millions of households, families trying to pre-buy energy for the coming winter, continued high energy costs and the lack of leveraging money this year on which states were counting.

Record high energy costs have resulted in record numbers of households facing utility disconnection.  The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) estimates that more than 15.6 million households face utility shutoffs because they cannot pay their energy bills.  Shutoff moratoria have run out in the states that have them.  Many families are already experiencing this difficult situation and many more will face this prospect without additional LIHEAP funding.

Additionally, families in cold weather states who were able to pay this winter’s bill are already preparing for next winter and are finding the costs of home heating to be out of reach.  In its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that the cost of home heating oil will increase more than 41 percent from the 4th quarter of 2007 to the 4th quarter of 2008.  This increase comes on top of the 162 percent increase in heating oil prices that occurred between January 2000 and March 2008.  Recognizing that prices will continue to rise, many families are trying to be prudent by locking in lower fuel prices.  If prices escalate during the winter, the burden will be even greater.  An influx of LIHEAP money now will help those families plan ahead and be a more efficient use of federal funds.

In the immediate term, already-high energy costs are putting upward pressure on energy rates.  Many utility companies have already or will soon increase their rates.  In Virginia, Dominion Power has applied to raise rates 18 percent; in Missouri, AmerenUE asked for a 12.1 percent increase; in Oklahoma, Public Service Co. implemented a 25 percent increase on June 1; and in New York City, Con Edison expects a 13 percent increase this summer on the heels of a 4.7 percent rate increase in April.

Finally, we encourage you to consider assistance to states that were expecting – but will not receive – funding this fiscal year under the LIHEAP Leveraging Incentive Program.  This program rewards states for supplementing their federal LIHEAP dollars through acquiring non-federal funds.  However, the Department of Health and Human Services determined that the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) did not authorize them to distribute leveraging grants.  Unfortunately, HHS failed to provide adequate notice of this determination to states.  As a result, states that planned for this money in their budget will be forced to serve fewer households at this critical time.

For all these reasons, we believe that it is of utmost importance that you release all contingency funds now.  Approximately $100 million of the fund will expire at the end of the fiscal year.  The other $20 million in the contingency fund – left over from a FY2005 appropriations bill (P.L. 108-447) – does not expire, but we urge you to release it as well, given the clear need.

Thank you for your consideration of this vital issue.


Rep. James L. Oberstar
Rep. Steven C. Latourette
Rep. Tom Allen
Rep. Jason Altmire
Rep. Michael A. Arcuri
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Leonard Boswell
Rep. Robert Brady
Rep. Russ Carnahan
Rep. Steve Cohen
Rep. Joseph Crowley
Rep. William D. Delahunt
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro
Rep. John D. Dingell
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Vito Fossella
Rep. Phil Hare
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Maurice Hinchey
Rep. Paul Hodes
Rep. Dale Kildee
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rep. John R “Randy” Kuhl, Jr.
Rep. James R. Langevin
Rep. Sander M. Levin
Rep. Edward Markey
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. John McHugh
Rep. Michael Michaud
Rep. Brad Miller
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. John Olver
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Rep. Donald Payne
Rep. Mike Ross
Rep. Bobby L. Rush
Rep. Tim Ryan
Rep. Janice Schakowsky
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Rep. Betty Sutton
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Rep. Michael R. Turner
Rep. Chris Van Hollen
Rep. James T. Walsh
Rep. Peter Welch
Rep. Charles Wilson
Rep. Tim Holden
Rep. Mike Castle
Rep. Betty McCollum