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The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides federal funding to help low-income natural gas customers who struggle with home heating and cooling bills. For Fiscal Year 2011, Congress has funded the program at $4.7 billion. The House of Representatives recently voted to drastically cut the program and the Obama Administration has proposed that funding be reduced to $2.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2012. Based on the Administration’s proposal New York State would see a cut of roughly $200 million.

During the 2009-2010 winter season, approximately 34,000 Con Edison customers received a total of nearly $6 million in LIHEAP grants with an average benefit of $175 per household. Forecasts show more severe weather ahead. The current unemployment rate is just above 9 percent and a record number of people received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support in March 2011. Maintaining level funding for LIHEAP is more important now than ever before.

10 Reasons Why Congress Should Fully Fund LIHEAP

LIHEAP not only helps low income New Yorkers keep warm in the winter, but it also is an essential “entry point” that qualifies customers for other basic necessities such as prescription drugs and food. Con Edison, through the EnergyShare program, provides grants up to $200 to customers that qualify for assistance. In addition, over 320,000 customers receive Con Edison's reduced Low Income Rate for gas and/or electric service.

Recently, the Senate Subcommittee on Labor/HHS provided $3.6 billion ($3.4 billion in base funds and $200 million in contigency funds) for LIHEAP for FY2012. Since the President’s proposed funding level for LIHEAP is $2.57 billion and the House would likely only support $2.57 billion, the $3.6 billion from the Senate Subcommittee will likely be the high number if/when Congress negotiates on a final budget number.

The Senate proposal provides for all block grant funds under the Senate bill to be allocated by the hold harmless or Tier One section of the law, which means that the colder weather states receive a greater percentage.  To view what each state would receive under the Senate proposal, please click here

The Senate passed a continuing resolution that the House is likely to pass by voice vote before Friday and by roll call on October 4. The CR would fund the government at FY 2011 levels until November 18. However, the Administration will then have to decide at what level LIHEAP funds would be released during that six week period.

We continue to work with congressional representatives to restore LIHEAP funding to current levels. To date, over 992 organizations have signed an all-parties letter, as well as, thirty-eight U.S. Senators have signed a letter requesting FY 2012 that LIHEAP funding be fully restored. Click here to read a letter from Reps. Ed Markey (MA) and Peter King (NY) that includes signatures from our New York delegation to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Visit the www.SupportLIHEAP.com website to send a message to your representatives advocating for full funding of this vital program.

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