Senate Push to Boost LIHEAP Funds

A bipartisan effort to increase LIHEAP funding will go to the full Senate after winning Appropriations Committee approval.

We’ve got some time before snow and cold return, but a Senate panel is acting now to increase LIHEAP funding. (Photo By: Comstock)

We’ve got some time before snow and cold return, but a Senate panel is acting now to increase LIHEAP funding. (Photo By: Comstock)

By: Michael W. Kahn/ECT Staff Writer

Published July 17, 2013

The amount earmarked for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would increase to $3.61 billion in fiscal 2014 under an amendment to the 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill. That’s an increase of $150 million over the original amount.“I am pleased we were able to get strong bipartisan support for my amendment to increase this vital funding,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. Reed co-sponsored the amendment with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who called LIHEAP funding “necessary to ensure that no family is forced to suffer through winter without heat.”

The $3.61 billion figure that cleared the Senate panel July 11 would give a slight bump to LIHEAP, which has seen its funding hold steady at $3.4 billion since fiscal 2012.

While it’s still below the $5.1 billion appropriated in fiscal 2010, it’s more than the White House proposed in the spending package it unveiled in April. Under than plan, LIHEAP funding would be cut to $2.97 billion.

The National Fuel Funds Network, of which NRECA is a member, “wholeheartedly supports any legislative action to increase funding” for LIHEAP, said Marsha Belcher, chair of the NFFN board of directors. But, she added, they would like to see more.

“While the $150 million increase in funding called for in the amendment introduced by Senators Jack Reed and Susan Collins helps, funding for LIHEAP needs to be raised to at least $4.7 billion in order for the program to be effective,” Belcher told ECT.coop.

Along with awaiting full Senate action, the LIHEAP issue faces a challenge on the other side of the Capitol. The House Appropriations Committee has allocated some $43 billion less for the overall bill than its Senate colleagues.

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