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LIHEAP Protection Act would provide $4.5 billion to help vulnerable Americans with energy bills

(Washington, D.C.) – With energy costs rising and the coldest months of winter approaching, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a bipartisan group of Senators today to keep pressure on Congress to restore funding for a critical heating assistance program. Shaheen and her colleagues introduced the LIHEAP Protection Act, which would maintain level funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at last year’s level of $4.5 billion, and help low-income households and seniors make ends meet by offsetting home heating expenses.

 “While we deal with our complex fiscal challenges, we must not turn our backs on our most vulnerable citizens, who rely on LIHEAP funding to ensure that they and their families don’t freeze during the winter. Both Congress and the Obama Administration need to understand that drastically slashing LIHEAP funding is unwise and inhumane. As we work to reduce our deficit, we can't do it only on the backs of our neediest Americans,” Shaheen said. “This is about doing what is right for New Hampshire families who are facing skyrocketing oil prices and winter weather right around the corner.”

Last year, Congress provided a total of $4.5 billion in LIHEAP funds for low-income households. But the Obama Administration proposed a 45 percent cut in LIHEAP funds from last year’s level to $2.57 billion in 2012, a cut that Shaheen strongly opposed. Spending bills pending in Congress would only partially restore this highly disproportionate cut.

“Heating oil is more expensive than ever, and we’re facing tough economic times,” Shaheen said. “I have heard from many people in my state about how much they rely on LIHEAP, people like Kim Brandolini of Nashua. Kim is a single mother and an Army veteran. In 2010, she suffered a series of strokes that left her disabled and unable to work. LIHEAP funds last year covered nearly all of her monthly fuel costs but now she is on the waiting list and, if she doesn’t get the assistance, she does not know how she will afford the things she needs. It is crucial that we avoid a drastic reduction in this program that would leave people like Kim literally out in the cold. ”

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. The average heating-oil household is predicted to spend $193 more this winter than last.