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Letter to Chairman Tom Cole and Ranking Member Rosa Delauro, Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies - Funding of Heating Assistance Program

Letter

By: Grace Meng, Sandy Levin, Maxine Waters, Don Payne, Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Hank Johnson, Jr., Elizabeth Esty, Joe Courtney, Lacy Clay, Jr., Jared Polis, Jim Himes, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eliot Engel, Terri Sewell, Frank Guinta, Joyce Beatty, Steny Hoyer, Jim McDermott, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Ruben Gallego, Lois Frankel, Donald Norcross, Frank LoBiondo, Mark DeSaulnier, Richard Hanna, Joe Crowley, Mike Fitzpatrick, Linda Sánchez, Eleanor Norton, Don Beyer, Jr., Joe Kennedy III, Kyrsten Sinema, Kathleen Rice, Peter DeFazio, Marcia Fudge, Juan Vargas, Frederica Wilson, Diana DeGette, Judy Chu, Marc Veasey, Steve Cohen, Richard Neal, Luis Gutiérrez, Jim Costa, John Yarmuth, Grace Napolitano, John Larson, Barbara Lee, Stacey Plaskett, Jim Langevin, Ryan Costello, Sean Maloney, Bill Keating, GT Thompson, Jr., John Delaney, Donna Edwards, Seth Moulton, Mark Pocan, Matt Cartwright, Gregory Meeks, Loretta Sanchez, Mike Capuano, John Conyers, Jr., Jan Schakowsky, Keith Ellison, Pedro Pierluisi, Bill Foster, Bobby Scott, Dan Lipinski, Brenda Lawrence, Alma Adams, Paul Tonko, Dan Kildee, Dave Loebsack, Lou Barletta, Beto O'Rourke, Brian Higgins, Gwen Moore, David Scott, Stephen Lynch, Candice Miller, Bennie Thompson, Bruce Poliquin, Chris Van Hollen, Jr., Niki Tsongas, Emanuel Cleaver II, Raul Ruiz, Collin Peterson, Tulsi Gabbard, John Lewis, André Carson, Albio Sires, Mike Doyle, Jr., David Cicilline, Alan Lowenthal, Chaka Fattah, Sr., John Sarbanes, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Ron Kind, Kilili Sablan, Jackie Speier, Dan Benishek, Tony Cárdenas, Gene Green, Ann Kirkpatrick, G.K. Butterfield, Jr., John Katko, Al Green, Chris Collins, Jerry Nadler, Tim Walz, Danny Davis, Denny Heck, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Brendan Boyle, Ben Lujan, Jr., Carolyn Maloney, Bobby Rush, Tom Marino, Yvette Clarke, Suzanne Bonamici, Debbie Dingell, Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Cheri Bustos, Betty McCollum, Elijah Cummings, Julia Brownley, Adam Schiff, Ed Perlmutter, Louise Slaughter, Chellie Pingree, Chris Gibson, Filemon Vela, Jr., Ann Kuster, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, Gerry Connolly, Katherine Clark, Mark Takano, Peter Welch, Pete King
Date: March 27, 2015

Dear Chairman Tom Cole and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro,

We are writing to request that you prioritize the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill by including no less than $4.7 billion for this program that provides critical support to our most vulnerable citizens.

LIHEAP helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. LIHEAP households are among the most vulnerable in the country. According to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association (NEADA), more than 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, elderly, or disabled, and 20 percent of households contain at least one veteran. For these households, LIHEAP funding has been a lifeline during challenging economic times. Access to affordable home energy is not a luxury -- it is a matter of health and safety.

We understand the ongoing discretionary budget challenges. However, we are deeply concerned that funding for LIHEAP has declined more than 30 percent in recent years. Moreover, the number of households eligible for assistance continues to exceed available funding. According to NEADA, the total number of households receiving LIHEAP assistance has declined by 17.7 percent between FY 2010 and FY 2014, from 8.1 million to 6.6 million. About 1.5 million poor households have lost access to critical LIHEAP assistance and struggle to pay for the basic necessity of home energy in addition to other essentials like food and medicine.

Funding has declined by almost $1.7 billion since FY 2010, yet energy costs have remained high, reducing the purchasing power of LIHEAP assistance. Recipients have seen their average LIHEAP grant reduced by about $95 since 2010, from $520 in FY 2010 to $424 in FY 2014. The average LIHEAP grant is estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, meaning that many low-income families and seniors will have fewer resources available to meet other basic needs.

As you finalize your FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we ask that you take into account the great need for LIHEAP. We urge you to reprioritize this program and restore funding to this program to a level no less than $4.7 billion.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.

Sincerely,


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