Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at Lincoln Park in Albany and urged Congress to deliver robust Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding in the next coronavirus relief package in order to provide critical assistance for low-income households and seniors. 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 on in their homes during the cold winter months. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), one in five homes in the country is at least 60 days behind on the electric and gas utilities. While theCARES Act dedicated $900 million in emergency LIHEAP funding last year, state energy officials estimate significant emergency supplemental funding is needed to help financially strained households across the country pay their energy bills and stay safe throughout the winter.
“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 fight to ensure it’s included in the next relief package.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “COVID continues to disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents and those struggling to make ends meet. Since this pandemic began, Senator Gillibrand has been at the forefront of securing vital fiscal relief for our residents, our first responders, and our state and local governments. Senator Gillibrand truly understands how important it is to help our residents during these unprecedented times, and I sincerely appreciate her continued calls for increased LIHEAP as part of the COVID Relief Bill currently being considered by Congress.”
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. 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. As the Senate negotiates the next coronavirus relief package, Senator Gillibrand is urging leadership to maintain House negotiated funding levels for LIHEAP at $4.5 billion.
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 theCARES Act. Gillibrand also successfully pushed the Trump administration to immediately release the emergency funding and send a vital lifeline to New Yorkers.