Klobuchar and Franken right to push for funding for LIHEAP

This winter has been easy on the heating bills with the mild weather we have had so far. That’s about to change and with a dip in the mining and tourism economy, some people up here are going to have some tough choices to make.
Figuring out how to pay a heating bill can put a family at risk in a hurry. There’s a federal program to help those in need and our federal senators have been pushing for Washington to continue to provide funding into the future.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urged the administration to take into account the high demand for heating assistance and restore funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to a level no less than $4.7 billion.
In a bipartisan letter to President Obama that was sent with 38 other senators, Klobuchar and Franken requested that LIHEAP funding be included in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget proposal.
“As some parts of our country continue to face rising energy costs, LIHEAP helps to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine,” wrote the senators. “With the average LIHEAP grant estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, many low income families and seniors will struggle to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and will have fewer resources available to meet other essential needs. As you finalize your FY 2017 budget request, we ask that you take into account the high demand for LIHEAP assistance.”
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to request that you prioritize the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by providing no less than $4.7 billion for the program in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget proposal.
LIHEAP provides vital assistance to low income households, seniors, and veterans in both the cold winter and hot summer months by helping with their energy bills. According to the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association, more than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households include at least one veteran. This funding continues to be a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Moreover, as some parts of our country continue to face rising energy costs, LIHEAP helps to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine.
We are deeply concerned that the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed available funding while the average cost of home heating is expected to remain unaffordable for millions of households nationwide. In fact, the current funding level is able to serve just 20 percent of the eligible population, and those who receive LIHEAP assistance have seen their average grant reduced by $107 since 2010 from $520 to $413.
Additionally, the purchasing power of LIHEAP has declined in recent years. The average LIHEAP grant has fallen from 60 percent in 2010 to nearly 47 percent of the cost of home heating. For households using delivered fuels, this decline is even more dramatic, covering just 18 percent of heating oil and propane costs. With the average LIHEAP grant estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, many low income families and seniors will struggle to pay for the basic necessity of home energy and will have fewer resources available to meet other essential needs.
As you finalize your FY 2017 budget request, we ask that you take into account the high demand for LIHEAP assistance and restore funding to this program to a level no less than $4.7 billion.
Being able to come home to warm house is something many take for granted. For those who don’t, this program can be a lifesaver.