Senators urge Trump Administration to prioritize programs that provide energy assistance for low-income households

WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to help vulnerable populations afford their heating and air conditioning during months of extreme temperatures, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are leading a bipartisan coalition of Senators in urging the Trump Administration to include funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) programs in the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal

In a letter sent to President Trump, Senators Reed, Collins, and 44 of their colleagues are urging the President to prioritize LIHEAP and WAP funding.  

“LIHEAP helps these low-income households with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months” the Senators wrote.  “More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.   This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise more than 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income.  Unfortunately, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.”     

“WAP is another critical program, which for more than 40 years has helped to reduce the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households,” the Senators continued.  “By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance.  WAP has been repeatedly demonstrated as cost-effective with every $1 invested in weatherization returning over $4 in benefits. WAP has also supported thousands of high quality, skilled jobs as well as local small businesses.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that weatherization saves eligible single-family homes on average $283 in annual energy cost savings, which benefits not only the household but also boosts the local economy.  And in cold weather states, weatherization has reduced heating bills by 30 percent on average.”

Preserving LIHEAP funding is a perennial bipartisan priority for Reed and Collins, who in recent years have worked together to prevent funding cuts to the program.  In September, Reed helped secure $3.69 billion nationally for LIHEAP, a $50 million increase over the prior year.  In October, Reed and Collins led colleagues on a letter to HHS urging that LIHEAP funds be released as quickly as possible for the winter heating season.  Later that month, HHS released approximately $3.65 billion, resulting in Rhode Island households receiving over $23.7 million in LIHEAP funding.  

“LIHEAP and WAP help keep elderly and low-income Rhode Islanders warm and safe in their homes.  It’s critical that we continue to invest in these vital initiatives and ensure that vulnerable citizens can safely make it through tough weather,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “I am proud we once again have bipartisan support for robust funding for both programs, and I urge President Trump and his Administration to prioritize these programs.  We must ensure low-income households don’t have to choose between paying high energy bills and paying for other necessities like food and medicine.”

Other Senators who signed the letter include: Ed Markey (D-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Udall (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of two successful federal programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which are currently helping to meet the energy needs of eligible low-income households across the country.  Extreme weather across the United States, including record-breaking cold temperatures in several states recently brought by the polar vortex, have once again highlighted the importance of affordable access to home energy as a matter of health and safety for more than six million low-income households, many of which include children, veterans, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.  LIHEAP and WAP have long enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that you will prioritize funding for both programs in your fiscal year 2020 budget proposal. 

LIHEAP helps these low-income households with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months.  More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.   This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise more than 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income.  Unfortunately, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.     

WAP is another critical program, which for more than 40 years has helped to reduce the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households.  By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance.  WAP has been repeatedly demonstrated as cost-effective with every $1 invested in weatherization returning over $4 in benefits. WAP has also supported thousands of high quality, skilled jobs as well as local small businesses.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that weatherization saves eligible single-family homes on average $283 in annual energy cost savings, which benefits not only the household but also boosts the local economy.  And in cold weather states, weatherization has reduced heating bills by 30 percent on average.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.  We recognize the ongoing challenges facing the discretionary budget and look forward to working with you to support these vital programs and ensuring access to affordable home energy for the most vulnerable households in every state.

Sincerely,