As the Senate negotiates the House passed coronavirus relief package, Gillibrand is urging Senate leadership to maintain House negotiated funding levels for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $4.5 billion. Within the last year, the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has put an unprecedented financial burden on New Yorkers. Millions of New Yorkers are finding it more difficult to afford the cost of keeping the heat turned on in their homes during the cold winter months. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, one in five homes in the country is at least 60 days behind on the electric and gas utilities. Despite the $900 million in emergency LIHEAP funding allocated in the CARES Act, state energy officials estimate significant emergency supplemental funding is critical to help financially strained households and seniors across the country pay their energy bills and stay safe throughout the winter.
Last month Senator Gillibrand made stops across New York State — including in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Albany — in her fight for robust LIHEAP funding in the next coronavirus relief package.
“The financial strain of the pandemic has hit New Yorkers hard, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. For months, cash-strapped individuals and families have worried if they can keep their lights on, warm their homes, and put food on the table. With unemployment remaining at record highs, Congress cannot wait to deliver vital relief,” said Senator Gillibrand. “LIHEAP is well-positioned to rapidly respond to, and support the needs of, households that are struggling to heat their homes this winter. Funding the program will provide a lifeline to New Yorkers in need and I will keep fighting to ensure it’s included in the next relief package.”
The average cost of home heating is unaffordable for millions of low-income households. New Yorkers can spend more than $2,700 a year on energy bills alone — for low-income New Yorkers, that can amount to 20-40% of their income on energy. In addition, National Fuel announced that the cost of heating in Western New York would rise approximately $10 each month during the 2020-2021 winter season. The quick release of LIHEAP funds is an essential lifeline to families unemployed as a result of the pandemic, which has disproportionately hit low-wage workers and underserved populations.
Senator Gillibrand has consistently fought to ensure New Yorkers can afford their utilities. When millions of workers were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, New York and states across the country did not have sufficient funds to provide assistance to those losing their jobs. Senator Gillibrand fought alongside her colleagues to deliver $900 million in LIHEAP funding in the CARES Act. Gillibrand also successfully pushed the Trump administration to immediately release the emergency funding and send a vital lifeline to New Yorkers.