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.