The proposed federal budget submitted to Congress by President Bush would reduce 2007 – 2008 funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $502 million, in relation to the current LIHEAP funding level.
The current level was set by a continuing resolution when Congress failed last year to pass a number of 2007 major appropriations bills, including a bill to fund the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers LIHEAP grants to the states. The continuing resolution will expire February 15, 2007 and agreement has not been reached as to the funding level for the remainder of the 2007 federal fiscal year.
If the funding for 2007 is established at the continuing resolution level, and if Congress were to reduce funding for 2008 as requested by the President it is estimated that 2008 LIHEAP funds for New YorkState’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) would be reduced by approximately $61 million, or 25%.
LIHEAP grants are distributed on a first-come first-served basis until the program closes. Approximately 33% of the New York households eligible for LIHEAP receive a benefit. In the 2005 – 2006 HEAP year, New York State utilized approximately $382 million in LIHEAP funds to assist more than 850,000 low-income New York households. The President’s proposed LIHEAP reductions, if approved by Congress, could result in benefit cuts, or a significant reduction in the number of low-income New York households served, or both.
The President’s proposed LIHEAP appropriation for 2007 – 2008 is approximately $1.7 Billion less than the 2005 – 2006 funding level, which was increased by Congress in early 2006 in response to major energy price increases for home heating fuels. The newly proposed level would reduce federal aid to New York’s low income households by $198 million in relation to the amount allocated in 2005 – 2006 to New York.
The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) is seeking $5.1 Billion for the LIHEAP program. The President’s new budget proposal for LIHEAP is less than 30% of that recommendation. NEADA estimates that the proposed LIHEAP cuts would eliminate home energy assistance to more than one million eligible low-income households.
Governor Jodie Rell of Connecticut condemned the LIHEAP cuts in the President’s budget:
These cuts interfere with the fundamental responsibility of government: to safeguard the lives of its citizens,” Governor Rell said. “Whether we are helping struggling families stay warm through the harsh winter months or protecting homes and residents against terrorism and natural disasters, we expect our federal partners to carry their fair share. The cuts to these programs place extraordinary burdens on the states – and do so at a time when Connecticut’s own budget is facing severe pressures.
Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois called upon Congress to block the proposed cuts and restore LIHEAP funding to last year’s level.
For further information see PULP’s web page on HEAP in New York.