NEFI joined a coalition letter this week urging Congress to increase funding for the Federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in advance of the upcoming heating season. The letter requests $5.1 billion for fiscal year 2021, which is 36% above the regular appropriation for the current fiscal year. The letter comes as the coronavirus pandemic and related economic concerns have put additional strain on state budgets, local fuel assistance programs, gas and electric utilities, and heating oil and propane distributors.
Congress appropriated $3.74 billion for the current fiscal year, but this was before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provided an additional $900 million in emergency funding, which was released to states by the Trump administration in May. The emergency funding can be used for either fiscal years 2020 or 2021. LIHEAP advocates say additional support for LIHEAP is needed as the crisis persists.
"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 47 million Americans have filed for unemployment," the coalition said. "Unfortunately, for many, economic circumstances continue to deteriorate, and [emergency funding provided in the CARES Act] will only scratch the surface of what families will need to stay afloat." The letter notes that U.S. households eligible for fuel assistance have climbed from 35.2 million to 43.8 million in just a matter of weeks.
In addition to NEFI, the letter was signed by the American Gas Association (AGA), American Public Gas Association (APGA), American Public Power Association (APPA), Edison Electric Institute (EEI), National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The six groups will coordinate additional outreach to Congress as the appropriation process moves forward. Read the full coalition letter online here.