2023 All Parties Letter
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An Open Letter to Congressional Appropriations Committees
In Support of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Dear House and Senate Appropriators:
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a critical, life-saving program that targets and serves the most vulnerable households, including older Americans, individuals with disabilities, and families with young children.
The majority of LIHEAP-eligible households survive on less than $20,000 per year[i]. Many subsist on fixed incomes, meaning that their pay does not increase when the cost of heating and cooling their homes increases. Living at the lowest levels of poverty, LIHEAP recipients make heartbreaking choices every day between food, medicine, or utilities.
Only about 16 percent of eligible households[ii] are able to be served with regular LIHEAP funding. As prices increase disproportionate to wages and climate disasters become more prolific, funding for LIHEAP has become increasingly strained. Appropriations must take into account the need for additional resources to expand cooling programs and address the effects of extreme temperatures and commodity price increases on household budgets.
The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC), along with our dedicated partners signing this letter, strongly urge Congress to maximize funding for LIHEAP in FY 2023 in order to prevent a catastrophic lack of energy access across the country as prices soar for everything from groceries to utilities[iii], arrearage debt accumulates for families experiencing economic hardship, supply issues create food shortages, and new iterations of the novel coronavirus continue to infiltrate communities nationwide.
Energy is essential to provide heating and cooling, hot water, and refrigeration. For 40 years, LIHEAP has reliably and effectively stabilized families and provided consistent benefits that relieve the energy burden for those most vulnerable to unsafe indoor air temperatures. This premier federal energy assistance program also keeps electricity flowing to life-saving equipment for those with chronic health conditions, including respiratory conditions like COVID-19. LIHEAP prevents disconnection of service, contributes to housing and family stability, and preserves the dignity of those served by helping them pay their bills in full and on time.
According to U.S. Census data[iv], 42.5 million Americans live below the federal poverty line, and that number has only grown since the pandemic swept across the country. Many key protections – for example, utility moratoria and federal stimulus credits – have expired, leaving households more vulnerable to utility debt. More than one in four of those who lost jobs during the COVID-19 crisis reported skipping or needing to skip a utility bill payment.[v]
The 2018 National Energy Assistance Survey (NEAS)[vi] reported that 92 percent of LIHEAP recipient households have at least one vulnerable person. Elders, young children, and the disabled are most susceptible to extreme temperatures and thus are prioritized by LIHEAP. Nearly half of NEAS respondents reported that one or more persons in the household were age 60 or older.
One in three LIHEAP recipients reported they went without food for at least one day in the prior 12 months according to the NEAS. One in three LIHEAP recipients reported using their kitchen stove to heat their home, posing the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
Lawmakers have a responsibility to expand resources to support those who have fallen behind because of increased energy burden and extenuating circumstances, and to protect those with fixed or limited incomes. NEUAC and its national coalition of more than 200 member organizations[vii], along with the [number of signers to be added upon sending] stakeholder organizations across the country that have signed this letter, urge Congress to defend LIHEAP and maximize funding appropriations in FY 2023.
Thank you for your consideration.