Democratic Leaders to Bush: It’s Time to Ensure All Americans Have the Resources to Heat Their Homes this Winter

Jan 23, 2005
Press Release

Leaders to Bush: It’s Time to Ensure All Americans Have the Resources to Heat Their Homes this Winter

Monday, January 23, 2006

Contact: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider, 202-226-7616

Washington D.C. â€" House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn sent a letter to President Bush today urging him to release $101 million for low income home heating assistance and send Congress a supplemental appropriations request to increase funding to the full $5.1 billion authorized for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Below is the text of the letter:

January 23, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

There is an urgent need for additional funds to provide low income home heating assistance to the nation’s most vulnerable citizens as they face skyrocketing energy costs.

The facts are well known and undisputed. This winter, homeowners, on average, will see a 25 percent increase in home heating costs â€" the steepest rise in five years â€" with spending on natural gas up 35 percent, heating oil spending up 23 percent and propane increasing 17 percent this winter. Nearly the entire Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefit paid to each household will be eaten up by the increase in energy costs, leaving millions of low-income Americans, who are already struggling to make ends meet, out in the cold.

This year, applications to the State energy assistance offices are up 11 percent, marking the highest number of applications in 12 years. Yet Congressional funding for home heating assistance is $20 million lower than it was last year despite significant increases in the cost of energy and the number of families applying for assistance.

Numerous states are seeking temporary solutions as they face the prospect of exhausting LIHEAP funds early in the winter season. Some are dipping into other basic support programs for the needy in an effort to provide stop-gap heating assistance. These efforts are not enough and cannot be sustained.

Without increased federal funding in the next few weeks, hardworking families across the country will be unable to pay all of their utility bills, accumulating debt that could force them into financial trouble. The elderly will be forced to choose between visiting their doctors and taking their medications, or heating their homes. States will face the prospect of imposing moratoriums when utility companies begin shutting off heat to vulnerable families.

Unlike many complicated issues that we are faced with today, providing low income heating assistance is a straight-forward problem that has a simple solution.

We urge you to take two immediate actions. First, release the remaining $101 million from the contingency fund to provide much-needed assistance. Second, send Congress a supplemental appropriations request by the end of the month that increases funding up to the full $5.1 billion authorized for LIHEAP.

These funds would help the millions of extremely vulnerable people who are at risk in the face of skyrocketing heating bills. Republican leaders of Congress missed an opportunity to provide $2 billion for LIHEAP in a failed attempt to link home heating assistance to drilling in the Artic Wildlife Refuge. An additional $1 billion in the Budget Reconciliation Conference Report pending in the Senate will not be available until 2007.

It is time to demonstrate leadership on this issue and ensure that all Americans have the necessary resources to heat their homes this winter. We simply cannot wait any longer.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Leader

Steny Hoyer
House Democratic Whip

James Clyburn
Chair, House Democratic Caucus