Denver — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined a bipartisan group of 31 U.S. Senators in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as swiftly and at the highest level possible as global energy costs are projected to rise this winter.
Federal LIHEAP funding is a crucial lifeline that helps low-income households and seniors on fixed incomes pay their energy bills and stay safe during the winter. Nationwide, an estimated 5 million households received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP in 2021.
“Given the alarming increase in energy costs that is forecast for this winter, we worked to secure an additional $1 billion in emergency funding for LIHEAP in the recently enacted short term CR. It is critical that this funding, as well as the significant base funding available under the CR, is distributed as quickly as possible so it reaches these households in time for the winter heating season,” wrote the lawmakers.
Last year, between annual appropriations, the American Rescue Plan Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Congress provided a total of $8 billion for LIHEAP nationwide. LIHEAP is administered by states and accessed through local Community Action Agencies. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.
Senior citizens and those receiving Social Security Disability or SSI benefits are encouraged to apply as early as possible, but applications will be open to everyone through spring of 2023 — or until the funding is exhausted.
This letter builds on Bennet’s previous efforts to meet the needs of low-income families and seniors to help cover energy costs over the winter season. Last year, Bennet joined colleagues in requesting information regarding the administration’s implementation of LIHEAP. In 2020, Bennet urged the previous administration to quickly release millions in LIHEAP funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic on Americans struggling to afford their heating bills.
In addition to Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-N.M.).
The full letter is available HERE and below.
Dear Secretary Becerra:
With the passage of the Continuing Resolution (CR), we write to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to release Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at the highest level possible.
As the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, LIHEAP provides critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. October marks the start of the heating season for many states, and with temperatures already dropping, low-income families and seniors are feeling additional strains on their household budgets.
Given the alarming increase in energy costs that is forecast for this winter, we worked to secure an additional $1 billion in emergency funding for LIHEAP in the recently enacted short term CR. It is critical that this funding, as well as the significant base funding available under the CR, is distributed as quickly as possible so it reaches these households in time for the winter heating season.
As such, we request that you immediately release these LIHEAP funds so that low income households do not have to choose between paying for heat and affording other necessities like food or medicine.
We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.