More than 150 advocates from around the country descended upon Capitol Hill Wednesday in support of responsible funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) sponsored LIHEAP Action Day 2014 along with member companies of the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Edison Electric Institute. The day-long event is aimed at building awareness for LIHEAP. The federal block grant program provides financial assistance to low and fixed-income individuals for fuel and utility bills, as well as low-cost weatherization and energy-related home repairs.
Dozens of LIHEAP advocates met with members of Congress and their staff, and took to social media advocating for $4.7 billion in LIHEAP funding for FY2015. You can share your thoughts about the importance of LIHEAP by using the hashtag #LIHEAPAction.
After many years of underfunding LIHEAP, Congress funded the program at $5.1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010. Since then, funding has been cut drastically from $4.7 billion in FY2011 to less than $3.4 billion for the current fiscal year. President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget request is for $2.8 billion. These funding cuts have resulted in smaller assistance grants and fewer households served, severely limiting the program’s effectiveness.
This winter’s record breaking cold temperatures have been a stark reminder of why the LIHEAP program is so critical. Here are just a few other reasons:
- According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, more than 46 million people live in poverty – the largest number in the 52-year history of published poverty estimates.
- Even with LIHEAP funding at $5.1 billion, the amount was only enough to assist 1 in 5 eligible Americans.
- The average low- and fixed-income family spends 13.5 percent of its annual household income on energy – almost twice the 7.2 percent spent by the average U.S. household.
- LIHEAP supports veterans and seniors. The number of veteran households served by LIHEAP increased by more than 150 percent over three years. Roughly 40 percent of LIHEAP recipients are seniors.
- Roughly 75 percent of households receiving assistance earn less than $15,000 a year and 50 percent earn less than $10,000 a year.
- Almost all recipient households support someone who is disabled, elderly, or have a child under six.
- Home energy insecurity can lead to diminished child health, home fires and deaths, choices of “heat or eat” and homelessness.
LIHEAP Action Day concluded with a Congressional reception and the presentation of the NEUAC Extra Mile award given to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), recognizing for her longtime support of the program.