U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) applauded the release today by the Bush Administration of $3 million provided by Congress to help Washington state families heat their homes this winter.
“Families are reaching deep into their pockets to keep the heat on this winter,” said Larsen. “Many face difficult choices that no one should have to make – like whether to put food on the table or heat their home. The heating assistance provided by Congress and released today by the President will help everyone in our community get the help they need to stay warm.”
Last week, Larsen sent a letter with his colleagues U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee urging the President to release Low Income Housing and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency funds provided by Congress. Congress included $2.57 billion in LIHEAP funding in the omnibus legislation recently enacted – a $400 million increase over last year.
With the cost of heating fuel on the rise, communities across Washington state have seen a significant increase in the number of calls for assistance this winter, and the budgets of local agencies have been strapped trying to meet the increased demand for help.
For Snohomish County in particular, there was no time to lose. County officials report that without additional resources, they were on track to run out of money for the year by January 18.
The text of Larsen’s letter follows:
January 11, 2008
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing to urge you to immediately release the Low Income Housing and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency funds for Fiscal Year 2008. As you are aware, the Consolidated Appropriations bill for FY 2008 included $2.57 billion in funding for LIHEAP, including $586 million in contingency funds to be released at your discretion.
Unfortunately, while general LIHEAP funding has remained constant, the cost of home energy has risen substantially. The Energy Information Administration has estimated that households will pay between 10 and 22 percent more for heating fuels this winter than they did last year and local budgets are being exhausted trying to meet the increased demand for assistance. This funding gap has made LIHEAP contingency funds critical to providing necessary energy assistance to people throughout the country.
In Washington state this demand is real. LIHEAP administrators across the state have reported significant increases in the number of calls for assistance, and some fear they will run out of funding by the end of the month. With the winter season just beginning and more cold-weather months on the way, the situation is dire for many families in need of assistance.
Snohomish County, for example, has seen an increase in both the number of people seeking assistance and the amount of money needed per household. The average household grant provided by Snohomish County in December was $405, a 23 percent increase over last year. Snohomish County estimates that they will only be able to serve 19 percent of the LIHEAP eligible population, compared with 29.9 percent last year.
Having already served 1,300 households this winter, Snohomish County is on track to run out of funds by January 18th. Consequently the County will be forced to deny service to approximately 1,000 homes that would have received assistance in previous years.
For the low-income families that receive this aid, home heating costs make up a disproportionate amount of their total expenditures. Without it, many must choose between buying groceries and heating their homes.
Funding is available that will make a real difference for low-income families nationwide this winter. We urge you to release the $586 million in LIHEAP contingency funds recently approved by Congress to provide low income households across the country the help they need to keep their houses warm this winter.
CC: Secretary Mike Leavitt
Patty Murray Maria Cantwell
United States Senator United States Senator
Jay Inslee Rick Larsen
United States Representative United States Representative