Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Letter to Congressional Leadership

September 20, 2010


Hon. Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
Washington, DC 20510
Hon. Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
Washington, DC 20510
Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
Washington, DC 20515
Hon. John Boehner
Minority Leader
Washington, DC 20515
Daniel Inouye
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20510
Hon. Thad Cochran
Vice Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20510
Hon. David Obey
House Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20515
Hon. Jerry Lewis
Ranking Member
House Appropriations
Washington, DC 20515












As you prepare to fund the government into FY2011, we wish to bring to your attention a potentially catastrophic situation involving the operation of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and to urge that the Congress adopt the FY2011 recommendations of the House appropriators for LIHEAP. The House bill would level funding of LIHEAP at $5.1 billion for FY2011, the same amount as provided in FY2010. In comparison, the Senate bill would provide $3.3 billion, requiring a cut of three million households from the program. In order to pay their energy bills, many of these families would have to choose between paying for food, medicine and other necessities. The House bill would prevent many of these families from having to make these choices.

The Senate bill is premised upon an automatic “trigger” provision proposed by the Administration. If that trigger is eventually enacted, LIHEAP would be funded at $5.3 billion next year; however, this provision cannot take effect without signing new authorizing legislation into law—therefore, the “missing” $2 billion represents an unexpected, inadvertent cut to a critical program. At this time, the requisite “trigger” legislation has not been introduced in either the House or the Senate. It is thus unlikely that this Congress has time to legislate on this matter. If the next Congress opts to address this issue, it may not occur until long after the winter heating season. 

LIHEAP has evolved into a widely supported, essential program that delivers critical short-term aid to our most vulnerable neighbors, including elderly on fixed incomes and the desperately poor. In the last two fiscal years, the LIHEAP program was funded at the $5.1 billion level. This strong bipartisan funding commitment allowed LIHEAP to grow from a primarily regional program to a national one. 

The number of households receiving assistance reached record levels for this year, increasing from 7.7 million to 8.8 million. Even though Congress funded LIHEAP at the $5.1 billion level, that amount was still only enough to assist one in five eligible Americans.

At this writing, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education has provided $5.1 billion for FY2011. The Senate Appropriations Committee has provided $3.3 billion for LIHEAP. Thus, unless conferees adopt the $5.1 billion in LIHEAP funding envisioned by House appropriators for next year, states will be compelled to implement painful, 35 percent reductions in less than three weeks. More than 3 million very low income otherwise-eligible households (or nearly 8 million Americans) could soon lose access to LIHEAP. Fortunately, this catastrophe can be averted by at least level-funding LIHEAP as House appropriators have proposed. We respectfully suggest that this remedy be applied to either a FY2011 Continuing Resolution or a Labor/HHS appropriations bill. 


A New Leaf’s Mesa Community Action Network AGL Resources
Alliant Energy Corp
Ameren Services
American Corn Growers Association
American Gas Association
American Public Gas Association
American Public Power Association
Arizona Community Action Association
Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association, Inc.
Atlantic City Electric
Avista Corp
California/Nevada Community Action Partnership
Campaign for Home Energy Assistance
Clearwater Gas System
Cleco Corporation
CMS Energy
Coalition for Affordable Energy for All
Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm
Coconino County Community Services, Community Action Agency
Columbia Gas of Kentucky
Columbia Gas of Maryland
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
Columbia Gas of Ohio
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
Columbia Gas of Virginia
Community Action Human Resources Agency
Community Action Partnership of Oregon
Con Edison
Connecticut Association for Community Action
Consumer Action of California
Delmarva Power
DTE Energy
Duke Energy
Edison Electric Institute
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
Florida Association for Community Action (FACA), Inc.
The Florida Council on Aging
Florida Power & Light Company
Hawaiian Electric
The Heat and Warmth Fund
Integrys Energy Group
Iowa Community Action Association
Kansas City Power and Light
Louisiana Association of Community Action Partnership
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.
Michigan Electric and Gas Association
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company
Minnesota Community Action Partnership
National Association of State Energy Officials
National Caucus and Center on Black Aged
National Community Action Foundation
National Conference of State Legislatures
National Consumers League
National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association
National Fuel Funds Network
National Fuel Gas Company
National Grange
National Grid
National Hispanic Environmental Council
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
New Jersey Natural Gas
New York State Community Action Association, Inc.
Nicor Gas
Northeast Utilities System
NW Natural
Peoples Natural Gas Co.
Piedmont Natural Gas
Portland General Electric
Prosperity Works
Puget Sound Energy
Salvation Army
San Diego Gas & Electric
SEMCO Energy
South Eastern Arizona Community Action Program
Southern California Gas Company
Southwest Gas Corporation
TXU Energy
Vermont Gas
Washington Gas
Washington State Community Action Partnership
Western Arizona Council of Governments
Weststar Energy
Wisconsin Energy Corporation
World Institute on Disability
Tucson Electric Power