(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today joined 34 of her Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the Senate's Majority Leader and Republican Leader urging them to prevent deep cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program, which last winter provided heating assistance to roughly 47,000 New Hampshire homes, is in danger of being funded at approximately $2 billion less than it was last year.
"With many New Hampshire households still rebounding from the financial recession, heating oil costs on the rise, and the coldest months of the year already upon us, we must preserve this vital source of heating assistance for New Hampshire families," said Shaheen. "Providing the program with level funding will help thousands of Granite State families stay warm over the winter."
The letter requests that the program be funded at last year's levels while Congress works to complete the 2011 budget. On November 16, Senator Shaheen sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that urged against cutting the program. On November 22, Shaheen signed on to a similar bipartisan letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee also calling for the program's full funding.
More than half of New Hampshire families rely on home heating oil, and the price of heating oil is up roughly 12 percent from this time last year. The Energy Information Administration projects that the Northeast will spend almost 15 percent more for home heating oil this winter than last. This year, if funding is cut, New Hampshire will be able to provide heating assistance to half as many homes as received assistance last year.
The full text of the letter to the Majority Leader and Republican Leader is below.
December 17, 2010
The Honorable Harry
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
We write to request that you extend funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through September 30, 2011, in any short-term Continuing Resolution (CR).
As you know, the LIHEAP program provides critical heating and cooling assistance for low income households. Although a short-term CR would fund LIHEAP at last year's level of $5.1 billion, given the uncertainty of final Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11) funding, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may again provide State funding allocations based on significantly lower levels during the coldest months of the year. This would be consistent with the October 28 release of LIHEAP funding, which was based upon $2.71 billion in total funding, roughly a cut of 40 percent from last year's levels.
This result would be devastating for our states during a brutal cold period. Compounding the situation is the increased cost of home heating oil, which is roughly 12 percent higher than last year. Again, given the unique structure of the program, unless we finalize funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 now, the millions of Americans who need help paying their energy bills this winter could see no additional assistance. As such, we would request that you extend LIHEAP's funding through September 30th, 2011, at last year's funding levels, in any short-term CR. This would provide stability to the program and allow HHS to allocate LIHEAP funds in a timely manner to provide vital heating assistance this winter.
Again, we want to thank you for your commitment to helping low-income families cope during this tough economic climate, and look forward to working together in a fiscally responsible manner to address this serious issue.
U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Herbert Kohl (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Robert Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Robert Bennet (R-UT), Deborah Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Begich (D-AK), James Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI)