February 02, 2018

Following Richmond Heating Crisis, Kaine Urges Trump To Boost Funding For Heating Assistance

Kaine joined 44 Senators to urge Trump Administration to prioritize funding for programs that reduce home energy costs for low-income households in FY 2019 budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of recent heat outages in public housing units in Richmond, and as part of his continued efforts to provide heating aid and help struggling families reduce their energy bills, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined a bipartisan group of senators urging President Trump to include robust funding in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

In a letter to President Trump and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, Senator Kaine and 44 of his colleagues noted the bipartisan support behind both LIHEAP and WAP and described the critical role both programs play in providing vulnerable populations and low-income households with affordable home energy.

“LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months,” the Senators wrote. “More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.  Additionally, according to the most recently available data, the percentage of households receiving LIHEAP that have at least one veteran is 20 percent. This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.”

For years, Kaine has stressed the importance of preserving LIHEAP funding to help families afford heat throughout the winter. The recent heating crisis in Richmond, which left hundreds of public housing apartments with full or partial heat outages, was another example of why it is important that low-income families have access to reliable heating for their homes through the coldest months of the year. The letter notes that the current number of houses eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of two successful federal programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which are currently helping to meet the energy needs of eligible low-income households across the country.  Cold weather and winter storms across the United States have once again highlighted the importance of affordable access to home energy as a matter of health and safety for more than six million low-income households, children, veterans, seniors, and Indian tribes.  LIHEAP and WAP have long enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that you will prioritize funding for both programs in your fiscal year 2019 budget proposal. 

LIHEAP helps low-income households, veterans, and seniors with their energy bills, providing an indispensable lifeline during both the cold winter and hot summer months.  More than 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child under the age of six, a senior, or an individual with a disability.  Additionally, according to the most recently available data, the percentage of households receiving LIHEAP that have at least one veteran is 20 percent.  This program helps to ensure that eligible recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine.  This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise more than 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income.  Unfortunately, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.     

WAP is another important initiative, which for more than 40 years has helped to reduce the burden of high home energy prices for over 7.4 million low-income households.  By supporting lasting and cost-effective home energy efficiency improvements for low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, WAP is increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes, reducing residential energy bills, improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, and helping to lower the need for short-term assistance.  WAP has been repeatedly demonstrated as cost-effective and has supported thousands of high quality, skilled jobs.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that weatherization saves eligible single-family homes on average $283 in annual energy cost savings, which benefits not only the household but also boosts the local economy.  And in cold weather states, weatherization has reduced heating bills by 30 percent on average.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request.  We recognize the ongoing challenges facing the discretionary budget and look forward to working with you to support these vital programs and ensuring access to affordable home energy for the most vulnerable households in every state.

Sincerely,

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