With residential energy costs expected to rise nationwide this winter, today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a video press conference calling for emergency supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a federal program that helps millions of Americans, including over 1 million New York households, heat their homes. However, as natural gas, heating oil, and electricity prices are expected to rise, Gillibrand is calling on Congress to provide additional funding to the program to ensure that families can continue to afford their heating bills throughout the winter months.
“LIHEAP provides a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As winter approaches and the cost of groceries and other essentials remains high, our families simply cannot afford to pay exorbitant heating bills. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that New Yorkers have what they need to stay safe and warm throughout the coming months and I urge Congress to provide this additional funding to LIHEAP immediately.”
Senator Gillibrand has consistently worked to help New Yorkers afford their utilities. Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use its statutory authority to ensure that Americans’ household energy bills would not be driven up by energy market manipulation in wholesale natural gas and electricity markets. Last year, she called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address the ongoing energy crisis and ensure families that rely on LIHEAP had the resources they needed to stay warm through the winter. When millions of workers were laid off at the onset of the pandemic, Senator Gillibrand fought alongside her colleagues to deliver $900 million in LIHEAP funding in the CARES Act and an additional $4.5 billion in supplemental funding to the program as part of the American Rescue Plan.
In addition to Senator Gillibrand, the bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Jared Golden (D-ME-2), Peter Welch (D-VT-At Large), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-2), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Andy Kim (D-NJ-3), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Joe Courtney (D-CT-2), Deborah Ross (D-NC-2), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-7), James Langevin (D-RI-2), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), David Cicilline (D-RI-1), Jason Crow (D-CO-6), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), André Carson (D-IN-7), James McGovern (D-MA-2), Annie Kuster (D-NH-2), Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), William Keating (D-MA-9), Lori Trahan (D-MA-3), Chris Pappas (D-NH-1), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12).
The full text of the letter is available here or below:
Dear Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman DeLauro, Vice Chairman Shelby, and Ranking Member Granger:
We appreciate the Committee’s longstanding support for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which serves as a lifeline for millions of seniors and low-income families across the country. In light of skyrocketing home energy bills and additional increases expected for this winter, we urge the Committee to provide emergency supplemental funding for this critical program.
The Committee’s efforts to increase the annual appropriation for LIHEAP for Fiscal Year 2023 represents an important commitment to restoring funding to the levels reached over a decade ago. However, because of the run-up in natural gas, heating oil, and electricity prices, we are deeply concerned that we will not meet the needs of low-income families this winter.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index recently reported alarming increases across all sources of home energy fuel over the past 12 months. Natural gas is up 38.4 percent from this time last year – the largest such increase since the period ending in October 2005. Electricity is up 13.7 percent – the largest such increase since the period ending in April 2006 – and heating oil is up 98.5 percent.
Currently, an estimated 20 million families are behind on their utility bills, totaling more than $18 billion in arrearages. Without increased LIHEAP funding, this trend will only continue, straining household budgets even further. Increased energy costs will inevitably force many vulnerable families to make heartbreaking decisions between heating their homes, putting food on their tables, and buying the medications they need to survive.
In a normal year, LIHEAP plays a critical role in offsetting burdensome heating and cooling costs that strain the budgets of financially vulnerable Americans. However, this winter, LIHEAP will be more important than ever in helping families afford their energy bills. We urge you to help states prepare for a particularly tough winter ahead by appropriating emergency supplemental funding for this critical program.
Thank you for your attention to this request and your support of the LIHEAP program.