WASHINGTON — Yesterday, Reps. Haley Stevens (MI-11), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Don Young (AK-At Large), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Marc Veasey (TX-33) introduced H.R. 7662, bipartisan legislation to help low-income families afford heating and cooling bills during the coronavirus pandemic.
As millions of Americans continue working from home or have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, many families are depending on federal support through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to cover their energy costs. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, LIHEAP provides grants to state agencies to help low-income families manage costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, and minor energy-related home repairs. More than 90 percent of households receiving LIHEAP include at least one person with a disability, a child under 18, a veteran, or a senior citizen.
This legislation would strengthen LIHEAP by allocating additional funding to help state agencies make it easier for families to apply for and participate in the program, and boosting the agencies’ efforts to process the recent surge in the volume of applications and transition to remote work due to the coronavirus.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic forces millions of Michiganders to work from home or out of work, many Michigan families need basic energy assistance to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” said Congresswoman Haley Stevens. “The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps families reduce the risk of health and safety problems that arise from utility shutoffs, and Congress must strengthen this program as state agencies face additional challenges related to the pandemic. In my home state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting massive increases in LIHEAP applications, creating a processing backlog that is further complicated by the unexpected transition to remote work. This bipartisan legislation will strengthen LIHEAP by helping state agencies address application backlogs and transition smoothly to remote work for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation must be included in the next COVID-19 relief package to ensure that low income families in Michigan and across the country get the energy assistance they need during this crisis.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created stress for families across our country, and many have to decide whether to pay their energy bills or buy food and medication,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Keeping the lights on and the water running is more important than ever in a pandemic. As Chair of the Education Committee’s Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, I led 77 of my colleagues in calling for more funding for LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, in the next COVID-19 relief package. LIHEAP typically has the resources to serve only a fraction of eligible households; in the pandemic even more households will qualify for assistance. This bipartisan bill will help more families get the assistance they need, including many families with young kids, seniors, and people with disabilities.”
“America is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and brutally cold temperatures are the norm for our state’s residents,” said Congressman Don Young. “For years, LIHEAP has helped some of our most vulnerable populations – from our cities to our rural areas and Native villages – stay warm and safe through the winter. The COVID-19 pandemic has already imposed immense economic costs on our state’s families. As the winter approaches, many Alaskans will require energy assistance; the LIHEAP program must be available to those who need it. I am proud to join Congresswoman Haley Stevens on this crucial legislation to strengthen this important program that countless families in Alaska and across our nation depend on.”
“COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on disparities in our system,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. “With millions still out of work and even more struggling to get by, now more than ever is the time to ensure people can properly pay their utility bills. This year is already on track to be one of the hottest on record. No person should be forced to make the decision between living in a home with air-conditioning or putting food on their table.”
“The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the challenges that millions of low income families already face,” said Congressman Marc Veasey. “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation that will help families get through these challenging times by helping them afford basic energy needs like heating, cooling, and water.”