The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition encourages your organization to support the FY 2016 All Parties Letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Appropriations Committees, asking for at least $4.7 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help protect vulnerable households from America’s cold winters and hot summers.

An Open Letter to Congressional Appropriations Committees to Increase Funding for LIHEAP to At Least $4.7 Billion in FY2016

Dear Senate and House Appropriators:

We are writing to urge you to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in FY2016. Sufficiently funded, LIHEAP serves a vital, life-saving role protecting millions of families from America’s cold winters and hot summers. A FY2016 appropriation of at least $4.7 billion is necessary if this program is to continue to allow states and their charitable partners to serve the growing need of America’s most vulnerable households.

LIHEAP is an efficient, effective program. It helps your most vulnerable constituents, including the elderly - many of whom are on fixed incomes - the unemployed, families with young children, and the disabled. Notably, fully 20 percent of LIHEAP households (1.78 million) contain veterans, according to a 2011 study by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

LIHEAP is not an entitlement and does not receive increased funding as need increases. Congress must appropriate funding annually. While states set eligibility guidelines, federal statute sets the income maximum at 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline or 60 percent of the state’s median income. (The poverty guideline for a family of three in FY2015 is $19,790; 150% is $29,685.) Most LIHEAP recipients fall well below the maximum thresholds and many LIHEAP-eligible households fail to receive any assistance because of insufficient funds.

In 2013, the national poverty rate was 14.5 percent and 45.3 million Americans lived in poverty, according to U.S. Census data. Though the economy is improving, the need for a program like LIHEAP persists. Between FY2009 and FY2015, LIHEAP's appropriation was cut by more than one-third. Because of these cuts, states have been forced to reduce the number of households served, cut benefits, or both. We believe these reductions are too much.

We respectfully ask you to substantially restore LIHEAP funding in FY2016. While an appropriation of at least $4.7 billion is not enough to meet the full needs of vulnerable households, the program is much more effective at higher funding levels, and LIHEAP truly becomes a national program serving at-risk households in all regions of the country.

We know that Congress has made and will continue to make difficult budget decisions – but reducing LIHEAP funding is not the answer. We urge you to restore LIHEAP funding to at least $4.7 billion in FY2016.

Click here to support the NEUAC All-Parties LIHEAP Letter