WASHINGTON, D.C. –With winter fast approaching and the price of heating oil projected to be 10 percent higher this winter than last, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) stood against a proposed plan in the U.S. House of Representatives that would result in Ohio receiving a far smaller portion of home heating assistance funds than it would under a Senate proposal.

“No Ohio seniors should have to choose between heating their homes or filling their prescriptions,” Brown said. “Last year, more than 426,000 Ohio seniors and families received assistance to keep their heat turned in the coldest months. But a newly-proposed House plan would send Ohio’s fair share to other states,” Brown said. “With winter on the way and the price of heating oil expected to be higher than ever, now is not the time to pass a plan that would result in warmer-weather states receiving the funds that Ohioans rely on to stay warm in the winter.”

Bills in the House and Senate both contain similar funding levels for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but the proposed House plan makes allocation changes that would result in Ohio and other colder-weather states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, receiving a smaller fraction of the funds. The Senate plan has already cleared the Appropriations Committee and relies on a formula that has been used since 1980 to emphasize the needs of colder-weather states like Ohio. Under the Senate proposal, Ohio would receive nearly $173 million in LIHEAP funds, but under the House plan, the state would receive approximately $157.4 million—meaning Ohio seniors would lose out on more than $15 million in home heating assistance funds.

Brown was joined by Marilyn Gump, a senior citizen from Waterford who depends on LIHEAP to make ends meet in the winter months, as well as Carrie McNamee, Director of Washington-Morgan Community Action. Brown, Gump, and McNamee called for the passage of the Senate version of the bill, which would ensure that Ohio receives the maximum share of available LIHEAP funds.

Further cuts to the LIHEAP program could result in Ohio seniors receiving smaller award amounts to help heat their homes this winter or denied assistance altogether. Brown released a county-by-county report on more than 426,400 Ohio households that received home heating assistance through LIHEAP in 2010.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency that administers LIHEAP, the mission of the program is to assist low-income households—particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy—in meeting their immediate home energy needs.

Last month Brown led 33 senators in a bipartisan letter to the Obama Administration urging the speedy deployment of LIHEAP resources. A copy of that letter can be seen here.

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