States Call for Increased LIHEAP Funding to
Address Cold Weather Conditions and Continuing High Energy Prices
November 18, 2014
Contact: Mark Wolfe/202-333-5915
The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association today called on Congress to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to $4.7 billion for FY 2015 to address growing need for energy assistance resulting from the early start of winter in much of the country as well as the continuing high cost of home energy.
States across the country are reporting increasing number of applications and are concerned that funding will not be sufficient to address the need for assistance to help poor families pay for home heating this winter and cooling this summer. For example, applications are up by 20.9% in Colorado from 24,245 to 29,231, Missouri by 7% from 69,091 to 73,974, and Illinois by 9.8% from 126,823 to 140,602.
Current funding is only sufficient to serve approximately 20% of the eligible population.
Households Receiving LIHEAP Stabilizes as 6.6 Million
In FY 14 (Table 1) LIHEAP provided heating assistance to approximately 6.6 million households and cooling assistance to an additional 1.0 million households.
The number of households served (Table 2) has continued to decline since FY 10 when funding was about $1.7 billion higher. In FY 10 approximately 8.1 million households received heating assistance; cooling assistance data is not available for earlier years.
Home Heating Costs Projected to Remain High
The average cost of home heating (Table 2) is expected to remain unaffordable for millions of low-income households across the country at an average annual price of $887. While the price has come down from last year’s very high level of $963, overall the cost remains out of reach for the millions of households receiving LIHEAP assistance, especially those using delivered fuels, with an average cost of $1,712 for those using propane and $1,992 for those using heating oil.
LIHEAP Purchasing Power Continues to Decline
The purchasing power of LIHEAP has declined steadily since FY 10, when the program was funded at $5.1 billion. Since then, the purchasing power has average grant has declined from about 60.2% to 44.2% of the cost of home heating. For those using delivered fuels, the purchasing power decline is even more dramatic, declining from 33.5% to 18% for heating oil and from 46.9% to 44.1% for propane.
The purchasing power for the coming winter heating season will depend on three factors: total appropriation, final price of home heating fuels and cold weather conditions and the number of households seeking assistance.
LIHEAP families are among the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.
In order to obtain a comprehensive demographic picture of LIHEAP recipients and the characteristics of those who are helped as well as who would be hurt by the program cuts, NEADA conducted a survey of approximately 1,800 households that received LIHEAP benefits. The results show that LIHEAP households are among the most vulnerable in the country.
- 40 percent have someone age 60 or older
- 72 percent have a family member with a serious medical condition
- 26 percent use medical equipment that requires electricity
- 37 percent went without medical or dental care
- 34 percent did not fill a prescription or took less than their full dose of prescribed medication
- 19 percent became sick because the home was too cold
- 85 percent of people with a medical condition are seniors
Many LIHEAP recipients were unable to pay their energy bills:
- 49% skipped paying or paid less than their entire home energy bill,
- 37% received a notice or threat to disconnect or discontinue their electricity or home heating fuel,
- 11% had their electric or natural gas service shut off in the past year due to nonpayment, 24% were unable to use their main source of heat in the past year because their fuel was shut off, they could not pay for fuel delivery, or their heating system was broken and they could not afford to fix it, and
- 17% were unable to use their air conditioner in the past year because their electricity was shut off or their air conditioner was broken and they could not afford to fix it.
LIHEAP’s impact in many cases goes beyond providing bill payment assistance by playing a crucial role in maintaining family stability. It enables elderly citizens to live independently and ensures that young children have safe, warm homes to live in. Although the circumstances that lead each client to seek LIHEAP assistance are different, LIHEAP links these stories by enabling people to cope with difficult circumstances with dignity.