By Michael W. Kahn/ECT Staff Writer (Published June 11, 2013) ECT.coop is published by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
LIHEAP isn’t just about keeping warm in the winter. Helping low-income families stay cool in the summer is another important aspect of the program. And while summer’s official start is still a couple of weeks away, federal officials are already taking action.
The Department of Health and Human Services moved June 5 to release $187.4 million for LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
“These funds will lower energy-related costs for low-income families to help keep them cool and safe throughout the summer,” said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families. The funds, which will be distributed by the states and territories, will help cover air conditioning costs.
“High temperatures translate into high energy bills for families who are already struggling to make ends meet,” Sheldon said.
The latest release brings LIHEAP funding for fiscal 2013 to $3.25 billion, a reduction of approximately 6.23 percent from fiscal 2012, Jeannie L. Chaffin, director of HHS’s Office of Community Services, wrote a letter to LIHEAP administrators. “This funding level reflects both the final enacted appropriation and sequestration,” Chaffin added.
In his fiscal 2014 spending plan, President Obama proposed cutting LIHEAP funding to $2.97 billion. That’s too low, as far as the National Fuel Funds Network is concerned.
“The release of the remaining LIHEAP funds demonstrates that energy assistance is a year round need. It is because of this need that funding for LIHEAP should be restored to $5.1 billion instead of being reduced as the president has proposed,” Kathy Walgren, NFFN interim executive director, told ECT.coop.
“In hot or cold weather,” Walgren added, “LIHEAP is vitally important to people struggling to keep their lights on and their homes livable.”
For information about LIHEAP funds in Horry County, contact the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council, Inc. at 843.234.4130