Shaheen Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging Biden Administration to Help Reduce Home Energy Costs
**90 members of Congress urge HHS to study impacts that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having on U.S. energy prices and whether additional LIHEAP aid is needed to offset impacts on working families**
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a group of lawmakers led by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), on a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take additional steps to reduce energy costs in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine.
The uncertainty caused by Putin’s war caused oil prices to wildly surge, reaching their highest levels ($127.98 per barrel) in 14 years on March 8. Meanwhile, natural gas prices have risen approximately 60 percent higher than this time last year.
As these Russian war-related price spikes cause American consumers to pay more at the pump and to heat their homes, and make household budgeting more difficult and unpredictable, the lawmakers are seeking information from HHS about how higher energy prices are affecting the ability of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to assist eligible individuals. In their letter, the lawmakers urge the Biden Administration to assess the program's current needs and to prepare for next winter.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills by providing payment and/or energy crisis assistance to pay for gas, electric, and other methods customers use to heat their homes.
“We greatly appreciate your efforts to alleviate increased home energy costs from pandemic-induced volatility in global energy markets for households this winter through effective administration of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), including the pre-emptive release of $3.37 billion in FY22 funding for the program at the beginning of the winter heating season. However, more needs to be done. While we commend President Biden’s leadership in addressing rising fuel costs caused by Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, we are nonetheless concerned that this war could worsen and prolong the financial impact of high energy prices on American families,” wrote the 90 members of Congress. “LIHEAP plays a critical role in offsetting burdensome heating and cooling costs that strain the budgets of financially vulnerable Americans. But as prices skyrocket because of Russia’s aggression in Europe, states will have to make tough choices about the number of people they serve and the amount of LIHEAP assistance they can provide to each household.”
They continued, “Recognizing this growing need, we respectfully request that you work with the Department of Energy to determine the impacts Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have on the home energy prices of low-income Americans for the remainder of this fiscal year and next. We also ask that you make recommendations for additional funding for LIHEAP, including supplemental and contingency funding, to minimize the impacts.”
Nationwide, an estimated 5.3 million households received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP in 2020.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN).
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shaheen worked to secure over $3.2 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in the fiscal year (FY) 2022 government funding legislation that was signed into law earlier this week, which is an increase of over $336 million above last year’s funding level. The bill provides $3.8 billion for LIHEAP, which is a $50 million increase above last year’s appropriation. New Hampshire has already received record LIHEAP funding this winter to assist Granite State families with home heating bills, efficiency upgrades and emergency situations. Shaheen has long worked to secure LIHEAP funding for Granite State families, and consistently boost funding for the program.
This funding legislation also includes $313 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) - $3 million over previous funding levels - a program long-championed by Senator Shaheen that helps to lower energy costs for low-income families by making energy efficiency modifications to their homes. The bill also provides $6 million for weatherization training and technical assistance and $15 million for a new weatherization readiness fund. Senator Shaheen recently joined in introducing bipartisan legislation to codify the weatherization readiness fund and make other improvements to help the program serve more households.
Full text of the letter is available here.