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McHugh: LIHEAP needs money to help seniors and low income families

Congressman John M. McHugh (NY-Pierrepont Manor) announced today that he has asked leaders in the House of Representatives to include $1 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in any supplemental appropriations legislation. The Senate recently included the $1 billion increase in the Senate version of the FY 2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, and a letter signed by Congressman McHugh and 70 of his colleagues calls on the House to do the same. It is clear that with the rapidly escalating costs of energy, LIHEAP will not have the necessary funds this fiscal year to support the number of low-income families and seniors that need additional assistance with their home energy costs. I strongly support this funding to ensure that we can give help to those who qualify, said McHugh. Additionally, I continue to urge House leaders to fully fund LIHEAP for 2009 so that we are not facing this emergency predicament again next year. LIHEAP helps eligible families pay for home heating and cooling in the winter and summer months, as some low-income families, disabled individuals, and senior citizens can spend up to 17 percent of their income on home energy costs. LIHEAP is authorized at $5.1 billion, but in FY 2008, only $2.6 billion was appropriated for the program. During the 2007-2008 season, over 55,000 households received LIHEAP assistance in the 23rd Congressional District, for a total of over $32 million in funding. Overall, New York saw an increase of 4.9 percent in the number of households receiving LIHEAP assistance. Due to the increase in the number of households in need of assistance this year, LIHEAP does not have enough funds for the remainder of FY 2008. The President only has $120 million remaining in emergency LIHEAP funds which is an insufficient amount to last through the end of this fiscal year on September 30. As noted in the letter to House leaders, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association also reported that an estimated 15.6 million households owed almost $5 billion on their utility bills as of March 31, 2008, an increase of almost $640 million or 9.5% over the comparable period in 2007. Approximately 14.8% of all households are at least 30 days behind in the utility bill payments, up from 13.5% last year. In March 2008, Congressman McHugh cosigned letters to the House Budget Committee and the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee urging that FY 2009 funding be at the full $5.1 billion to ensure that more eligible families and individuals can receive help. The letter was sent to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI), and House Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

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