Full LIHEAP Funding Urged

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Full LIHEAP Funding Urged

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer

With temperatures in the nation’s capital topping 90 degrees for the 16th consecutive day, advocates fanned out seeking congressional support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

LIHEAP advocates fanned out across Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to fully fund the program. (Photo By: Michael W. Kahn)

“A lot of at-risk people across the nation are counting on us,” said Tom Stovall, chairman of the board of directors of the National Fuel Fund Network, of which NRECA is a member. Stovall spoke to more than five dozen participants in the network’s LIHEAP Summer Action Day, Aug. 2. They spent the day visiting the Capitol Hill offices of some 75 senators and House members.

As much of the nation sweats through record heat this summer, Stovall said would-be LIHEAP recipients, looking for help with air conditioning bills, are finding that “cooling assistance programs have already either been exhausted, reduced or even eliminated.”

“In Illinois, where more than 700 people died during the 1995 heat wave, state officials announced that there would be no cooling assistance this summer in order to save those funds for heating assistance this winter,” Stovall said.

A White House proposal would slash LIHEAP funding by nearly half, to $2.57 billion in fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1, 2011. Advocates want to see that figure bumped up to $5.1 billion, the same as it was in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association agreed. The group represents state directors of LIHEAP programs, and Mark Wolfe, executive director, said requests for help keep pouring in.

“We recognize the budget problems that Congress is facing, but when you look at the data, this is not the time to cut LIHEAP,” said Wolfe. “The number of households has increased from 5.8 million to 8.9 million since 2008.”

This current fiscal year, LIHEAP funding stands at $4.71 billion.

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