WASHINGTON, D.C. – This winter weather and cold temperatures are certainly not going away anytime soon and officials expect the cost of heating your homes to go up by 30 percent this year, which is hurting people’s wallets. One New York U.S. Senator is trying to make sure people don’t pay too much to cover their energy costs.
In the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by President Biden a few months ago, 500-million dollars would be invested in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, better known as LIHEAP, which helps families pay their outstanding heating and cooling bills.
Republican Congressman Tom Reed (R- NY) who supported the infrastructure bill, said there’s a lot more money on the table with LIHEAP now and is encouraging people to take advantage of it.
“In these conditions in the state of where we are and other increasing costs going through the roof this is a resource that shouldn’t be left unattended,” said Reed in a phone call interview.
Even with this boost, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said LIHEAP has been so severely underfunded that it’s only been able to reach about 16 percent of eligible households in recent years. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), they expect nearly half of U.S. households that use natural gas heating sources will spend 746-dollars this winter, which is 30 percent more than they did last winter on average. EIA said the high prices follow changes to energy supply and increased demand due to the pandemic.
“Even before COVID, low-income households were spending one in every eight dollars they earned on their energy bills,” said Gillibrand. “That’s a significant portion of the household budget.”
So she recently introduced legislation that would invest 40-billion dollars in annual funding in LIHEAP.
“It would change the eligibility rules so that no household would have to pay more than 3 percent of their annual income on their energy costs,” said Gillibrand on the legislation.
The Senator said as we face colder winters and warmer summers, there will be a greater need for energy assistance.
“We have to make sure every New Yorker, every family and every child is safe in their home and that the government has the resources it needs to help them meet their energy needs today and tomorrow,” said Gillibrand.
This bill will also make sure no eligible household has their utilities shut off or pay late fees and that every household receiving funding can have their utility debt cleared.