Center for American Progress

Continue Helping Low-Income Families with Energy Costs

Continue Helping Low-Income Families with Energy Costs

Sustained and increased support will continue to be necessary to help low-income families with rising energy costs.

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The federal Energy Information Association released its annual winter outlook on Tuesday. The prognosis: The weather will be colder, and home heating costs will be higher this year. Undoubtedly, this is unwelcome news to the estimated 35 million low-income households that qualify for federal energy assistance and have been working to manage consistently climbing home energy costs over the last several years.

Fortunately, Congress was recently proactive in helping to reduce the looming impact of a costly winter on low-income households. This September, lawmakers increased funding for federal programs that serve the energy needs of low-income families—the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides income supplements for families that experience difficulty in paying for home heating or cooling, and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides those who qualify with home retrofits and repairs that help to conserve energy.

The Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2009 more than doubled LIHEAP funding to $5.1 billion, and provided a 10 percent increase to WAP, totaling $250 million. This will dramatically expand LIHEAP by allowing it to serve 2 million additional households and raise the average grant from $355 to $550, while also supporting efforts to increase the number of weatherized homes.

This boost from Congress will definitely be helpful, but sustained and increased support will continue to be necessary, especially if home energy prices remain at elevated levels, or worse, continue to increase as summer ends and we head into winter.

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