$900M in low-income home energy assistance requested to help families, seniors struggling to make ends meet

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen joined a letter led by Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Susan Collins of Maine urging the Trump Administration to quickly release $900 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding that Congress included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

As the economic impact of the coronavirus spreads, the Senators say it is critical to help low-income families and seniors who are struggling to make ends meet and that LIHEAP has proven to be effective and can get money into the hands of people who have already been vetted and approved for assistance.

The Senators are also demanding that the Trump Administration release the $37 million that the White House transferred from the program earlier this year to offset the cost of coronavirus response.

Congress passed a bill on March 6 that was signed into law (P.L. 116-123) that fully replenished any money transferred from LIHEAP. But the Trump Administration has yet to release the funds.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, 28 Senators urged HHS to immediately distribute the emergency funds to states so they can be disbursed by authorized, local non-profit organizations that deliver social services, community health, and housing assistance to low-income, elderly, and those with disabilities across the country.

“LIHEAP assistance is an indispensable lifeline, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other necessities like food and medicine,” the senators wrote. “As the economic impact of the coronavirus spreads, it will disproportionately hit low-wage workers who often live paycheck to paycheck. In most states, traditional unemployment only covers a portion of a worker’s average weekly wages. For these workers, working from home is not an option and a missed paycheck could have a significant impact on their finances.”

The Senators also expressed concerns that, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), states do not have sufficient funds to provide assistance to those losing their jobs and that many states are reporting no surplus of funds or extremely limited funding available.

“Claims will increase as families struggle to pay their utility bills at the end of the month,” the senators continued. “Already some areas are reporting that requests for assistance have tripled. Releasing this funding now is critical for state and community organizations to be able to support these families and seniors during this time and provide some measure of stability by assisting with the costs of utilities to keep the lights and heat on and people in their homes.”

“As states continue to provide assistance to people in need, it is crucial that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. We request that you quickly release all LIHEAP funds in order to allow states to provide this vital assistance. We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents,” the senators concluded.

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