The Administration has proposed to eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for the fourth consecutive year according to the FY21 budget proposal released today. The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition vehemently opposes the short-sightedness of such a decision and urges Congress to preserve this critical energy safety net program that helps more than 5.8 million households annually maintain utility services and keep their homes at a safe indoor temperature. The President’s FY21 budget proposal has recommended elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), marking the fourth consecutive year that President Trump has suggested that this program, along with many other anti-poverty programs, is not a priority. Eliminating LIHEAP – which provides energy assistance to vulnerable households with energy burdens that can exceed three times the average household – would leave millions of people without the means to safely heat or cool their homes.
“At this point, the President’s budget isn’t a surprise, but we cannot afford to become complacent,” said Katrina Metzler, Executive Director of NEUAC. “Grandmothers, single parents, veterans, and so many others depend on this funding to stay safe during the most dangerously hot and cold times of the year.” Despite the President’s efforts to eliminate the program, Congress has protected funding for LIHEAP in a bipartisan way year after year, even managing to improve the program in FY20 by $50 million. Metzler said LIHEAP’s champions in Congress understand the need. They see it in their districts and states. “Eliminating LIHEAP would put millions of lives at risk and save only the tiniest fraction of funding in the overall federal budget. It isn’t worth it,” Metzler said.
LIHEAP was designed to help America’s most vulnerable households maintain energy services in their homes, reduce their energy burdens, and protect the health and safety of everyone in the home. In light of today’s announcement by the administration, NEUAC is calling on Congress to protect LIHEAP and consider increasing funding in order to address substantial energy poverty across the nation, even in an economy that seems to be improving.
“People on fixed incomes aren’t doing better this year than they were last year,” Metzler said. “92 percent of LIHEAP recipients are vulnerable* – our elders, the disabled, children. Imagine if we also considered the LIHEAP recipients who have asthma, COPD, or other chronic illnesses that make continuous utility service a matter of life and death. It’s not overstating to say that LIHEAP saves lives. It is imperative that the program continues.” Additional funding in FY21 for LIHEAP will be difficult given the two-year budget deal signed last year. And yet, additional resources are desperately needed to ensure the continuation of the energy safety net for those who can’t afford their utility bills. Hard work and sacrifice cannot make up the difference in LIHEAP households where the average income is less than $20,000.
Metzler said choices between food, medicine, and utilities are heartbreaking, and unnecessary given the resources available. “Congress can fix this. They can choose to support programs that protect people, including LIHEAP,” Metzler said. * The National Energy Assistance Survey for FY18 showed that 92% of respondent households were home to one or more vulnerable persons, defined as older than age 60, younger than age 18, or disabled.
The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, is a broad-based coalition of diverse member organizations and individuals dedicated to heightening awareness of the energy needs of energy consumers with limited means, fostering public-private partnerships, and engaging in educational activities to help address these needs.