Casey Seeks to Prevent Cuts to Home Heating Assistance for Pennsylvanians

Billions in cuts to LIHEAP proposed that would hit needy families and seniors

WASHINGTON, DC—In response to reports that President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal will contain over $2.5 billion in cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), joined a bipartisan group of senators in an effort to protect funding for this essential program.  LIHEAP is a federal block grant program that provides states with annual funding to operate home energy assistance programs for seniors and low-income households.

“Home heating assistance provides vital help for needy Pennsylvania families and older Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Casey.  “That is why I have helped to secure additional funding for LIHEAP in the past. We must reduce federal spending and address long-term deficits, but it does not make sense to cut a program that provides help to Pennsylvanians who are struggling to make ends meet as the economy recovers from the devastating recession.”

In a bipartisan letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the senators wrote: “Congress and the Administration confront challenging fiscal decisions, and we recognize that we will need to work cooperatively to address our country’s deficit in a manner that will promote job growth and economic recovery.   However, we are deeply concerned by reports of very large cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget.  We ask that you reconsider this decision in light of the economic hardships facing low-income families and seniors.”

The letter continued, “The program helps low-income families and seniors with their energy bills, while at the same time generates $1.13 in economic activity for every dollar in benefits paid, according to economists Mark Zandi and Alan S. Blinder.” 

The text of the letter follows:


Dear Director Lew:

Congress and the Administration confront challenging fiscal decisions, and we recognize that we will need to work cooperatively to address our country’s deficit in a manner that will promote job growth and economic recovery.   However, we are deeply concerned by reports of very large cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget.  We ask that you reconsider this decision in light of the economic hardships facing low-income families and seniors.

We believe it is critical that careful attention is paid to the effect of rising energy prices on our economic recovery.  According to the most recent data, energy costs are increasingly taking up a larger share of U.S. consumers' budgets, accounting for more than 6 percent as of December.  Historically, according to Professor James Hamilton at the University of California, when energy costs approach 5 percent of consumers’ budgets, there is a burden on economic growth as consumers are forced to reduce spending on other necessities such as food, health care, and housing.  These are the hard economic realities facing millions of Americans as gasoline, heating oil, and electricity prices increase across the country. 

LIHEAP directly addresses these economic challenges. The program helps low-income families and seniors with their energy bills, while at the same time generates $1.13 in economic activity for every dollar in benefits paid, according to economists Mark Zandi and Alan S. Blinder.  We strongly believe that the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) budget proposal should reflect this.  Increased assistance for LIHEAP and energy efficiency improvements, such as weatherization programs and increased residential tax credits, will mitigate the burden on our economy from rising energy prices.  Failing to provide basic energy assistance for our low-income families, the millions of Americans seeking work, and middle-income Americans may threaten our economic recovery. 

We appreciate your consideration of our request and look forward to working with you to recognize these priorities as we confront our nation’s economic and budget challenges.

Sincerely,

Reed
Snowe
Sherrod Brown
Scott Brown
Kerry
Whitehouse
Mikulski
Pryor
Lautenberg
Begich
Durbin
Leahy
Casey
Levin
Sanders
Menendez
Gillibrand
Schumer
Coons
Merkley
Franken
Collins
Shaheen
Blumenthal
John D. Rockefeller IV
Landrieu
Bingaman
Wyden
Murray
Webb
Klobuchar

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