SHAHEEN FIGHTS FOR HEATING AID FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE FAMILIES

October 18, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined 32 of her Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius calling on HHS to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly as possible.  The Energy Information Administration projects that the price of heating oil will be 10 percent higher this winter than last, the highest average winter price ever predicted, with the average heating-oil household spending $193 more this winter than last.  The Senators said releasing the funds now will allow state agencies to begin preparing their LIHEAP programs for the winter. 

In winter 2009-2010, the New Hampshire LIHEAP program provided financial assistance to more than 47,000 households.

“As families across New Hampshire grapple with the dual challenges of a difficult economic climate and rising energy costs, it’s imperative that we release these funds as soon as possible,” Shaheen said.   “Doing so will make our state LIHEAP program more effective, so it better serves the tens of thousands of New Hampshire families that need help staying warm over the winter.”

Shaheen has been an outspoken advocate for LIHEAP, and worked to preserve funding for it last winter.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Sebelius is below.

October 18, 2011

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary

United States Department of Health & Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an indispensable lifeline for low-income households.  As state agencies prepare their LIHEAP programs for the winter, we request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as . quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.

Low-income families spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and this is particularly true during times of extreme temperatures and increased energy prices.  For many states, the beginning of October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on household budgets.  For example, the Energy Information Administration projects that the price of heating oil will be 10 percent higher this winter than last, the highest average winter price ever predicted.  While these prices would be challenging under the best of times, elevated levels of unemployment across our states will make this year's heating season an even greater struggle.  In addition, demand for LIHEAP has always been greater than the available funding, and the number of low-income households eligible for LIHEAP in 2012 is projected to remain at historic levels.

The President signed into law a continuing resolution that provides funding for federal programs through November 18, 2011.  We recognize that this does not provide certainty about the ultimate funding level for the LIHEAP program for Fiscal Year 2012. It is critical, however, that the pertinent state agencies begin the process of determining the level of heating assistance for this winter.  For this reason, we request that you release funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for what will be a challenging winter.

We look forward to working with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Deborah Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Scott Brown (R-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Casey (D-PA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Herbert Kohl (D-WI), Al Franken (D-MN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

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