Washington – In a letter to President Bush, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, along with two dozen of her House colleagues, called on the President to release the $120 million in remaining contingency funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Additionally, Congresswoman Shea-Porter sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi stressing the fact that if LIHEAP funding is not increased, thousands of New Hampshire families will be unable to heat their homes this winter.
“New Hampshire residents are facing an emergency,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “With heating oil at an all time high, thousands of families in the northeast will have to choose between staying warm or putting food on the table. If we do not fund this program our seniors and children will suffer the most. I urge President Bush to take action on this immediately so we can ensure our residents do not suffer in the cold this winter.”
With current forecasts for home heating fuel at record highs, the average New Hampshire family’s heating bill is expected to increase 30% from last winter. Without assistance from LIHEAP, many families will be unable to afford to heat their homes.
Full copies of both letters are below:
President George W. Bush
The White House
Dear President Bush,
As members of Congress from New England, we write you today to urge the immediate release of $120 million in remaining contingency funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (L1HEAP), to help cushion the impact of rising home heating oil costs on many of our most vulnerable constituents. With home heating oil prices in New England this winter expected to have risen by an average of nearly $2 a gallon over last year, many families simply will be unable to afford to heat their homes. Of the more than 8.5 million American households that use home heating oil, 2.5 million of them - nearly 30 percent - are located in the six New England states alone.
Currently, $100 million remains in unexpended LII-IEAP contingency funds for Fiscal Year 2008, as well an additional $20 million in non-expiring funds from Fiscal Year 2005. The release of these remaining funds will help cushion the impact of out-of-control home heating prices on vulnerable poor, elderly, and disabled populations, whose fixed incomes cannot keep pace with the increasing cost of heating their homes. Indeed, these skyrocketing energy prices are already forcing working families to make difficult sacrifices. The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA) reported earlier this summer that more than 15 million households nationwide are currently facing utility shutoffs because they simply cannot afford to pay their energy bills, an increase of nearly 15 percent from a year ago.
Releasing L1HEAP contingency funds before the winter arrives is an approach that has effectively mitigated the problem of high energy prices in past years. A release of funds now could allow families to secure heating oil for the coming season before prices climb even higher. Most recently, on September 12, 2006, you released $79.96 million in emergency L1HEAP funds to 14 states, including all six New England states. That disbursement was targeted to those states that had experienced the coldest wintertime
temperatures and where 15 percent or more of low-income households relied on home heating oil. At the time, Secretary Leavitt said, "This assistance will help states prepare for heating costs this fall and winter With this funding, the Bush Administration is helping those in need by ensuring their homes are kept warm during the winter months." Since that time, the need for home heating assistance has only increased.
Because of funding limitations, only 16 percent of households eligible for L1HEAP actually receive any assistance. With the alarming spike in heating oil costs, demand is likely to grow significantly this coming winter. While we need to pursue a variety of long-term solutions to stabilize the cost of heating oil and to better conserve energy, the release of these remaining emergency LIHEAP funds for FY 2008 will provide an important source of short-term relief for struggling American families.
Thank you for your attention to this issue of profound importance.
Member of Congress
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
Room H232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi:
Over this past August District Work Period, I met with many of my constituents who are incredibly worried about the effect that high oil prices will have on their families and communities this winter.
As you recall, I have spoken with you in the past about the public safety concerns raised by firefighters and other officials who fear that people, out of desperation, will attempt to heat their homes by dangerous methods. I have spoken with you about the importance of expanding LIHEAP to ensure adequate assistance is provided as the number of applicants increase. More than 60% of those eligible to receive assistance do not apply, but with increasing costs the number of households seeking assistance is expected to rise. I have also spoken with you about the need to ensure that LIHEAP funding is increased to address the fact that heating oil may be as much as 50% more expensive this year than it was last year.
Today, I am asking that we consider the overwhelming fear of the people from New Hampshire, who are extremely worried about how they are going to make ends meet this winter. Recently, a constituent wrote me expressing his concern as a single parent who dependent on social security saying, “I have received heating assistance in the past few years and have watched the assistance I received (the maximum) go from being able to purchase a full tank of oil to what will amount to what will this year be about a half a tank!” This constituent went on to say that “It cost me $200 to lock in a price of $4.45 a gallon and that hasn't even bought me an ounce of fuel!” Madame Speaker, for these people, we cannot wait for the next Congress to fully fund LIHEAP and reimburse the states for their expenses. We cannot allow these families to doubt that assistance will be provided.
As you know, I have introduced H.R. 6538, the Home Energy Assistance through Emergency Relief Act. This legislation would provide $9 billion in emergency appropriations funding for LIHEAP and an additional $1 billion for weatherization assistance. I urge you to ensure that this level of LIHEAP funding is included in any energy legislation, economic stimulus package, or other appropriate legislative vehicle that Congress may consider in the coming weeks.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Member of Congress