As winter rapidly approaches, the nation is still rebounding from this summer’s record high crude oil prices. These cost surges affect families at the pump, but also take their toll on home energy costs. Steadily rising utility bills have a disproportionate impact on those with little room in their budgets for additional expenses, causing them to make sacrifices on other necessities such as food and medicine just to stay warm.
Currently, the largest federal programs designed to address the problem are 1) the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which provides home energy income supplements to low-income households and 2) the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, which reduces the need for LIHEAP by making the homes of low-income families more energy efficient via appropriate retrofits. Investment in the latter strategy not only lowers energy bills, but offers the added benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs for communities experiencing economic hardship in the current economy.
Unfortunately, both programs are unable to address the severity of the need as chronic underfunding leads to long waiting lists for services and reduced purchasing power for the income assistance provided to LIHEAP families and seniors.
This panel will examine the impact of rising home energy costs on low-income households. It will also explore what Congress and the president can do to strengthen the ability of LIHEAP to provide vulnerable homes with needed assistance this winter while also ensuring that WAP investments reduce costs in future winters.
Warren Gunnels, senior policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Meg Power, president and executive director, Economic Opportunity Studies; consultant, National Community Action Foundation
Mark Wolfe, executive director, National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association
Joy Moses, Policy Analyst, Poverty Program, Center for American Progress