Pioneer Editorial: Battle for LIHEAP returns
It's a continuing battle every winter for cold-weather states, but one that must go on if our people are to stay warm this winter.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Minnesota Democrats, joined 32 other senators Friday in asking U.S. Senate leaders to include appropriations for 2011 for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in any continuing resolution before Congress adjourns for the year.
"We write to request that you extend funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program through Sept. 30, 2011, in any short-term Continuing Resolution," the senators wrote in the letter. "As you know, the LIHEAP program provides critical heating and cooling assistance for low-income households ... given the unique structure of the program, unless we finalize funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 now, the millions of Americans who need help paying their energy bills this winter could see no additional assistance."
The aid is important in providing fuel assistance and weatherization help to low-income families in cold states such as Minnesota. But it has national implications as well, as it provides aid to southern states for cooling in the hot summers. Yet, it seems always a battle every year to secure proper funding for LIHEAP.
A short-term continuing resolution at last year's levels would yield $5.1 billion, but given the uncertainty of final fiscal 2011 funding, the Department of Health and Human Services may grant state funding at reduced levels during the coldest months. That could see an allocation of $2.71 billion, or 40 percent less than last year's levels.
"This result would be devastating for our states during a brutal cold period," the senators wrote. "Compounding the situation is the increased cost of home heating oil, which is roughly 12 percent higher than last year. Again, given the unique structure of the program, unless we finalize funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 now, the millions of Americans who need help paying their energy bills this winter could see no additional assistance."
Congress is in a rush to pass key legislation and then adjourn, turning the keys over to the Republicans. But hopefully they will take the time for this one last important people-related action,
Senators and representatives will be heading to their warm homes for Christmas, but we can't say that for many of our local-income families who must decide between buying heat and eating.