Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that New York State will receive an additional $33,337,670 in heating assistance funds. The funds were allocated through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Schumer and Gillibrand said this additional $33 million will bring New York State’s total federal assistance for Fiscal Year 2015 to $377,245,102. Both Schumer and Gillibrand called on HHS to release this critical LIHEAP funding to New York State last October.
“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year, many of whom are seniors on a fixed income, rely on LIHEAP funding to help pay for the home heating costs that have become a larger and larger share of their budget. This additional funding will help people cover costs during this very cold winter and will mean fewer people will have to choose between paying for heat and the rent, heat and prescription drugs, or heat and putting food on the table,” said Senator Schumer. “Having these funds available now, in January, when winter is still rearing its ugly head across the northeast, is critical. This boost in home energy assistance could not come at a better time.”
“This funding is a lifeline for so many New Yorkers struggling to heat their homes and stay warm this winter,” said Senator Gillibrand, who called on HHS to release critical LIHEAP funding to New York State last October. “It is crucial for families throughout the state who have braved through recent storms and frigid temperatures to have the resources they need to stay warm throughout the winter. I am pleased to announce this critical funding because no New York family should ever be left in the cold.”
LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Even though the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance, this funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn and rising energy costs, helping to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine.
Schumer and Gillibrand said that this funding is critical while New Yorkers are still in the midst of winter and struggling to afford the cost of heating their homes. The mission of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is to assist low income households and seniors, particularly those seniors with the lowest incomes, who spend a high proportion of their total household income on home energy. Specifically, New York families whose incomes are 150 percent of the federal poverty level or lower are eligible for LIHEAP funds, and the majority of LIHEAP recipients fall well below that threshold.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to secure more funding for the LIHEAP program. Annual funding for LIHEAP has steadily declined at the federal level since a peak in 2011. Despite rising heating costs and lingering effects of the economic downturn, the federal LIHEAP appropriation declined from $4.7 billion in 2011 to only $3.25 billion in 2013 after sequestration. In 2014, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote letters to appropriators where he pushed for an increase in the budget for the federal LIHEAP. Following this push, LIHEAP was funded at $3.4 billion in FY2014, a $169 million increase. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, particularly many senior citizens living on a fixed income, benefit from the program each and every year.