Shaheen & Hassan Call for Inclusion of Lifesaving LIHEAP Utility Assistance in COVID-19 Relief Package

February 01, 2021

**Shaheen, Hassan and a group of U.S. Senators seek robust LIHEAP funding in next pandemic relief package**

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter with a group of 44 Senators calling for the inclusion of robust supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next COVID-19 relief package. U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) led the letter.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. With millions of American working families and seniors continuing to grapple with the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic amid the winter season, increasing funding for LIHEAP would bolster the program’s role as an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. In New Hampshire, LIHEAP provides assistance to more than 28,000 Granite Staters.

“The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer,” the Senators wrote. “State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.”

The Senators highlighted the financial difficulties many families have faced in paying their energy bills during the pandemic. “Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.”

They concluded, “LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine. Yet the annual funding for LIHEAP is only able to provide benefits to approximately one in six eligible households.  We appreciate the $900 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP, but those funds are now fully obligated and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with their growing bills.”

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 LIHEAP, which then-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 FY 2021.

The full text of the letter can be read HERE or below:

February 1, 2021

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

As you work to craft another recovery package to help Americans cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urgently request that you provide robust supplemental funding that reflects the increased need for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer.

State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.  Across the nation, utilities are reporting significant increases in the number of families falling behind on their utility bills.  The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimates that 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills.

LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  Yet the annual funding for LIHEAP is only able to provide benefits to approximately one in six eligible households.  We appreciate the $900 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for LIHEAP, but those funds are now fully obligated and additional funding is necessary to help the newly unemployed with their growing bills.

Thank you for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you to support these important programs in this time of crisis.

Sincerely,