KENNEDY, COLLEAGUES FIGHT TO PROVIDE LIHEAP FUNDS FOR MILLIONS
Washington, D.C.—Today, Senate Democrats led by Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Jack Reed offered an amendment to the Tax Reconciliation bill to provide 2.92 billion dollars in federal assistance to low-income and elderly residents for energy assistance. The funding would be paid for by using windfall profits from oil companies seeing record profits this year. This is the fourth amendment this year that Senator Kennedy has offered in support of providing energy assistance dollars to America’s low-income and elderly residents in preparation for the long winter months ahead.
LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, grants aid to low-income families who can’t afford the steep cost of energy. The number of households receiving this assistance has increased from 4 million in 2002 to 5 million this year, the highest level in ten years.
“Providing energy assistance to the poorest citizens of this country during the harsh winter months should be America’s top priority, but sadly the Administration continues to focus on misplaced priorities, Senator Kennedy said. “In spite of Katrina, the Administration continues to close their eyes to the long-term needs of the poor.”
Families throughout the nation are likely to face higher heating bills this winter. On average, households heating primarily with natural gas will pay about $350 (48 percent) more this winter for heat, and those relying primarily on oil will pay about $378 (32 percent) more. Forecasts of a cold winter and high fuel costs mean that the elderly, the disabled, and many others will be forced to make painful choices between heating their homes and paying for food, health care, and rent – unless we act now.
The Bush Administration has closed their eyes to the long-term needs of the poor, freezing LIHEAP funds and cutting the Community Services Block Grant. According to ABCD, a community action agency in Massachusetts whose neighborhood network handles the outreach and application process for LIHEAP, the cut in Community Services Block Grant funding through the Continuing Resolution means that access to this critical survival resource will shrink by more than 70%. Up to 10,500 households—out of a current total of 15,000 recipients--may not get their benefits.
Senator Kennedy Floor remarks in support of the amendment follow, as well as statistics on how LIHEAP assistance affects Americans.