With Winter Fast Approaching, Sen. Brown Leads 33 Senators on Bipartisan Letter Urging Deployment of Heating Assistance Funds for Seniors, Low-Income Families

Energy Information Administration Projects the Price of Heating Oil Will Be 10 Percent Higher This Winter than Last—the Highest Average Winter Price Ever Predicted, Letter Asks HHS Secretary Sebelius to Quickly Deploy Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With the official start of winter just a few weeks away—and as state agencies prepare their energy assistance programs for the winter—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led 33 senators in a bipartisan letter urging the speedy deployment of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) resources.

“The combination of cold Ohio winters and rising home heating costs could equal disaster for Ohio seniors and families if we don’t act quickly. LIHEAP helps low- and moderate-income seniors and families keep their homes warm throughout the coldest months,” Brown said. “With cold temperatures just a few weeks away, Secretary Sebelius should release these funds as soon as possible and at as high of a level as possible so that states like Ohio can begin to prepare for the upcoming winter.”

“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,” the senators wrote in the letter, sent to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “[D]emand 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,” the senators continued. “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.”

According to the HHS, the mission of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is to assist low income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs.

Brown is the chair of the Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition. The full text of the letter is below.

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, 

cc: The Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Director of Office of Management and Budget 

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