States Worried About Cuts to Home-Heating Program

Tuesday, 04 Oct 2011 05:25 AM

By Greg McDonald

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State officials are growing increasingly concerned they may have to deny home heating aid to as many two million families this winter because of federal budget cuts, according to a report Monday by
The online news and research publication of the Pew Center on the States quoted Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, as saying that Congress is likely to reduce the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by more than $1 billion.
The cuts would have significant effect on the LIHEAP grants that provide states with money to help low-income families pay their home heating and cooling bills.
The assistance program was funded at $4.7 billion during 2011, but President Barack Obama has proposed a 50 percent cut from that level, while the Senate has proposed $3.6 billion and the House has drafted a bill containing only $3.4 billion for LIHEAP grants.

Wolfe told Stateline that both the Senate and House proposals are obviously better than Obama’s plan, but either way states will be hard pressed to provide the kind of support they have in the past.
Wolf also estimated that applications in 2012 for heating and cooling assistance would likely remain at the record level of nine million households.
In anticipation of the problem, at least three governors from Hawaii, Kentucky, and Oregon —  have urged Congress to restore funding to the 2010 level of $5 billion, and some 14 governors have sent a letter to lawmakers noting the huge number of households nationwide that could be left in the cold.

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