2010-01-29 / Top Stories

$45M Home Heating Aid Coming

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that $45,029,122 in emergency home heating aid is coming to New York State to help seniors and low income families deal with heating bills this winter. Due to the recession and the recent bitter cold spell that gripped the northeast, Schumer, earlier this month, asked President Obama to release these resources as soon as possible in order to ensure there is enough home heating aid for all those who need it, particularly families and seniors. Late last year, Congress approved $5.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – the highest funding level in the history of the program. This appropriation includes more than $590 million in LIHEAP emergency funding in case of greater than expected demand, either because more people will be in need or due to colder than expected temperatures across the country.

“This is a welcome blast of warm air for hard pressed New York families struggling to pay their heating bills this winter. With a record number of families and seniors in need of heating assistance this winter, this emergency home heating aid is outstanding news,” Schumer said. “For so long, LIHEAP has been an essential safety net for low-income families and seniors in need of heating assistance, and this year is no different. And in these tough economic times, the program is more important than ever. With this additional aid, more New Yorkers will be able to obtain vital LIHEAP assistance this winter.”

More families are in need of and receiving LIHEAP benefits than ever before. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), states assisted more than 8 million households last year, nearly a one-third increase over fiscal year 2008. Furthermore, NEADA anticipates a 20 percent increase in LIHEAP applications this year. Even at the record appropriations levels passed by Congress the last two years, demand for the LIHEAP program continues to exceed funding. Accordingly, states will be able to spend contingency funding immediately.

Releasing this emergency LIHEAP funding – supplementing block grant funding already being spent in every state – will help thousands of families and seniors with their energy bills, and in doing so, create a noticeable economic multiplier. Less burdened by energy bills, these low-income families have more to spend on other essentials, and can avoid the choice between paying energy bills and putting food on their table.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 instructs that the LIHEAP contingency fund be used to assist the “needs of one or more States arising from a natural disaster or other emergency.” The law states that economic conditions, such as increased unemployment and layoffs, as well increased participation in public benefits, such as food stamps, merit the release of LIHEAP contingency funds. Clearly these conditions have been met. The most recent USDA food stamp data indicates that a record 37 million people – approximately one in eight Americans – received food stamps in September. Moreover, many states have experienced unemployment rates that have exceeded the national average for several months.

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