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Letter to President Obama regarding low-income home energy assistance program

February 26, 2014

Mayor's Office

Published by:

Mayor's Office

February 24, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As Mayors of major cities across the United States, we are writing to request that you include no less than $4.7 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget proposal.

Seniors and low-income households in our communities rely on targeted, short-term assistance from the LIHEAP program to help cover a portion of their heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. While we understand the challenging federal fiscal constraints, we are concerned that funding for LIHEAP has declined more than 30 percent in recent years. In fact, total funding has been reduced from $5.1 billion in FY2010 to $3.4 billion in FY2014. During this period the number of households served fell from approximately 8.1 million to 6.7 million.

Meanwhile, the nation’s poverty rate is at 15 percent, with almost 22 percent of children living in poverty, up from 18 percent at the start of the recession. These troubling poverty figures coupled with increased energy burden underscore the importance of the program. We're already seeing the demand for LIHEAP surge this year. With winter temperatures diving to their lowest in decades in some parts of the country, States of Emergency were declared all over the United States due to life-threatening winter weather. Many states are expressing concern that demand is quickly outstripping their resources as local LIHEAP offices face unprecedented requests for assistance.

The Energy Information Administration projected that the cost of home heating this winter will rise six percent to $977. These cost increases are happening at a time when households are receiving smaller benefits resulting in diminished purchasing power. The average LIHEAP payments have been reduced by more than $100 since 2010, dropping from $520 in FY2010 to $406 in FY2013. Millions of seniors and low-income families on fixed incomes will have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine.

We want to emphasize the urgency of our request given the severe weather, the rising cost of fuel, the diminished payments and the large number of households that need to be served. Again, we ask that you include no less than $4.7 billion for the core LIHEAP program in your FY2015 budget. We thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this priority.