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NEFI Joins National Coalition to Save LIHEAP

The New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) joined a new national coalition whose goal is to preserve and protect the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Save LIHEAP Coalition was created in response to President Trump’s proposal that the program be eliminated to help pay for requested increases in national security spending, notes the April 3 issue of NEON (NEFI Energy Online News).

The federal government provides about $3 billion per year in federal LIHEAP funds, and the program’s elimination would create multi-million-dollar holes in state budgets, according to NEON. This could force states to seek an increase in local taxes and fees on businesses to minimize the impact on fuel assistance benefits, NEON reports.

The new group is led by the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC). In addition to NEFI, its members include trade associations that together represent nearly all forms of heating fuels, NEON notes, including the American Gas Association, National Propane Gas Association, Edison Electric Institute, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and public utility groups, NEON reports.

About seven million households receive the LIHEAP benefit per year, NEON reports, and 75% are low-income families with children under five years old, or senior citizens and disabled persons including many veterans who are unable to work, NEON reports. NEFI says it has long supported federal funding for LIHEAP and continues to do so. It will also make recommendations to Congress and the administration on ways to make the program more efficient and cost-effective, it says.

Beyond elimination LIHEAP, the proposed budget also calls for elimination of some other long-standing safety net programs that, along with LIHEAP, are among the most efficacious in government, including the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), NEUAC says in a statement on its website.

Specifically, the president’s budget document proposes to “eliminate the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).”

The budget blueprint goes on to say that “compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.”

NEUAC says, “LIHEAP in fact is a high impact program that demonstrates strong performance outcomes. The program was implemented during the Reagan Administration to ‘assist households with low incomes, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs,’ according to HHS.”

NEUAC says, “In other words, LIHEAP was designed to address energy crises and target vulnerable populations most susceptible to extreme heat and cold.  In 2016, the program served more than 6 million households with home heating and cooling assistance, weatherization, and/or energy-related low-cost home repairs or replacements. Additionally, more than 70% of LIHEAP households had at least one person that was elderly, disabled or was a family with a child in the home. LIHEAP is successfully doing what it was intended to do.

“Energy is a life-critical resource,” the Coalition says. “NEUAC encourages mobilizing as supporters of LIHEAP to ensure the continuation of the safety net for those who struggle and sacrifice to pay their heating and cooling bills. LIHEAP is the singular federal program dedicated to reducing the energy burden of low-income families and is uniquely positioned as a flexible block grant to address energy specific needs on a state and local level. LIHEAP also is a highly effective program that helps to preserve the dignity of those living in poverty and assure access to basic energy resources for all Americans.

For questions on LIHEAP or NEUAC, contact Executive Director Katrina Metzler at 571-527-4616 or kmetzler@neuac.org.

The National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, was formed as a broad-based coalition of diverse member organizations and individuals. It works to highlight the energy needs of low-income households and advocate for policies and programs to help reduce their energy burdens. To learn more, visit www.neuac.org.

The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition office is at 4250 North Fairfax Dr. Suite 600, Arlington, Va. 22203. Email: info@neuac.org.

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