Both members of Maine’s delegation to the House of Representatives have signed onto a partisan letter requesting a $1.6 billion increase in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Signed by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), alongside 113 other members of Congress, the letter asks the House leadership to include an extra $1.6 billion in funding for LIHEAP “in any government funding package, to reflect the President’s FY24 emergency supplemental funding request.”
No Republican members of the House signed their name to the request.
Managed by the DHHS, LIHEAP “assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization and energy-related home repairs.”
Increased and uncertain home heating costs were a central aspect of the lawmakers’ argument for the added funding.
“With the winter months rapidly approaching, this funding is also needed to help address significant price fluctuations that energy markets continue to experience due to Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” the letter reads. “The conflict in the Middle East has also increased market uncertainty, and many energy market experts fear a rise in energy costs.”
According to the letter, “$4.515 billion was distributed in LIHEAP funding last year, including $100 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $1 billion from supplemental appropriations.”
“Even so,” the letter lawmakers said, “LIHEAP remains an historically underfunded and oversubscribed program with only 20 percent of households who qualify receiving support.”
Maine recently received just over $37 million in LIHEAP funding to cover assistance provided this winter to an estimated 45,000 households across the state.
To date, LIHEAP funding for FY 2024 consists of $3.7 billion in released block grant funds — including $100 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Should the representatives’ request for an additional $1.6 billion be approved, it would mean that LIHEAP would see a roughly $785 million increase in funding for the next fiscal year — representing an approximate 17 percent increase over last year’s budget.
According to data from the DHHS’ LIHEAP Performance Management website, 57 percent of Maine’s LIHEAP funding in 2022 went toward heating assistance, 21 percent to weatherization assistance, and 11 percent to crisis assistance. The remaining 11 percent covered administrative and other costs.
Each state has its own definition of what constitutes an energy crisis.
In Maine, a household is considered to be facing a LIHEAP-eligible energy crisis if they are facing an “imminent loss of heat” for a variety of reasons.
Weatherization activities eligible for LIHEAP funding are those which are designed to reduce energy costs by improving a home’s energy efficiency, including “insulation, weather-stripping, caulking, and some safety-related repairs.”
Fifty-nine percent of households that received LIHEAP funding for any purpose last year had at least one elderly individual, 9 percent had a young child, and 46 percent had a disabled individual.
The average heating assistance benefit received in 2022 was $755. The average crisis assistance benefit was $439, and the average weatherization assistance benefit was $5,468.
For FY23, Maine decided to set aside 60 percent of its LIHEAP funding for heating assistance, 10 percent for crisis assistance, and 15 percent for weatherization assistance.
Rep. Golden posted on X this morning about the letter he signed requesting additional LIHEAP funding for FY24.
“Winter weather has already arrived in Maine, which makes LIHEAP accessibility that much more urgent,” Golden wrote. “Read my letter urging congressional leaders to further invest in the safety of those who need it most.”
Winter weather has already arrived in Maine, which makes LIHEAP accessibility that much more urgent.— Congressman Jared Golden (@RepGolden) December 11, 2023
Read my letter urging congressional leaders to further invest in the safety of those who need it most:https://t.co/MPpNLU1Mlc