Schumer Wants LIHEAP Contingency Money Released
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is urging President Obama to release millions of dollars from a contingency fund set up to help deal with unexpected higher demand for energy assistance, an article on LoHud.com reported on Thursday. While addressing a group at the J. Edward Fox Senior Center in Mount Kisco, Schumer said that Obama should release $590 million from a fund that is part of the $5.1 billion appropriation for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
Schumer told the group of about 50 senior citizens that, “Because so many people are applying (for heating assistance) and because it’s so cold and because the price of oil is so high, we need to tap that emergency funding now.” The senator added that he believes Obama is likely to sign off on releasing the money, because it is already part of the 2009-10 federal budget.
Schumer’s remarks follow those of New York’s junior senator, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who recently urged New York state residents to apply for heating assistance, because the state’s LIHEAP funds are underused. She also encouraged residents to take advantage of the state’s $500 million dollars devoted to weatherization efforts, courtesy of the federal stimulus package.
Schumer said that in the last two months, 1,700 people in Westchester County have applied for LIHEAP assistance, as have 1,100 in Putnam County and another 1,100 people in Rockland County.
The senator’s spokesman, Max Young, said that about $2.5 million in LIHEAP assistance was given to Westchester residents from November 2008 to May 2009.
While New York’s funds go underused, other states are struggling to meet residents’ need for heating assistance, as the recession drives many homeowners to seek LIHEAP funds for the first time. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, which administers the state’s LIHEAP program, this year had to lower the income-eligibility requirement by $11,368, because its funding for 2009-10 was reduced by about $55 million. Pennsylvania’s LIHEAP program received a record amount of funding last year.
Vermont’s LIHEAP program could end up assisting more than 27,000 families, which would top last year’s record by at least 1,000. The Ohio LIHEAP office had to readjust its income guidelines to allow people more access to home heating assistance.
On Oct. 22, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that it would provide more than $2.6 billion in LIHEAP money to states to help people heat their homes during the last 3 months of 2009. Department spokesman Kenneth Wolfe told LoHud.com in an e-mail Wednesday that, “We have not made an announcement on the next round of funding, but will do so very soon.”