Collins-led effort seeks immediate distribution of federal energy assistance funds

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently led 30 Democrats in calling for the immediate release of federal funds from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps eligible low-income households and senior citizens pay their energy bills. 

“LIHEAP provides critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months,” wrote Sen. Collins and her colleagues in an Oct. 14 letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “October marks the start of the heating season for many states, and with temperatures already dropping, low-income families and seniors are feeling additional strains on their household budgets.”

With increased energy costs forecasted for this winter, Sen. Collins and the lawmakers pointed out that they secured an additional $1 billion in emergency funding for LIHEAP in the president’s recently enacted short-term continuing resolution (CR) funding package.

“It is critical that this funding, as well as the significant base funding available under the CR, is distributed as quickly as possible so it reaches these households in time for the winter heating season,” they wrote.

Sen. Collins led the letter alongside U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). Both lawmakers are also spearheading efforts to include $4 billion for LIHEAP in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations package that is currently making its way through Congress.

Nationwide, an estimated five million households in 2021 received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP, which is administered by states and accessed through local Community Action Agencies. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.

“We request that you immediately release these LIHEAP funds so that low-income households do not have to choose between paying for heat and affording other necessities like food or medicine,” wrote Sen. Collins and her colleagues.