Economic Stimulus - Home Heating Help

Senator Bernie Sanders and others are pushing to include home-energy assistance funding in an economic stimulus package the Senate is debating. Growing energy costs and cold weather have made additional funding a necessity for low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes and the disabled. Funding in the stimulus plan would be used immediately to help pay utility bills, jumpstart the economy and support small businesses that deliver heating fuels. "The price of energy is skyrocketing. People i

Senator Bernie Sanders and others are pushing to include home-energy assistance funding in an economic stimulus package the Senate is debating. Growing energy costs and cold weather have made additional funding a necessity for low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes and the disabled. Funding in the stimulus plan would be used immediately to help pay utility bills, jumpstart the economy and support small businesses that deliver heating fuels. "The price of energy is skyrocketing. People in Vermont and all over this country are paying record prices to heat their homes this winter. In the richest country on the face of the earth, we must ensure that no one goes cold this winter. In the United States of America, no American should be forced to make the unacceptable choice between heating their homes, paying for their prescription drugs or putting food on the table. We must not let that happen," Sanders said.

"In early December," Sanders added, "I introduced the Keeping Americans Warm Act to provide an additional $1 billion in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program with 27 bi-partisan co-sponsors. I have introduced several amendments to increase LIHEAP funding both this month and last month.

"At a time when home heating prices are going through the roof, and it is getting colder and colder every day, increased LIHEAP funding would provide immediate real relief to millions of senior citizens on fixed incomes; low-income families with children; and persons with disabilities.

"According, to the latest statistics from the Energy Information Administration, it will cost the average heating oil consumer over $2,000 to heat their homes this winter, an increase of more than 37 percent from last year. Even worse, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association project that in some parts of the Northeast, heating oil consumers will pay over $3,000 to heat their homes over the course of this winter.

"The spike in energy costs is completely eviscerating the purchasing power of this extremely important program in State after State. If Congress does not act soon to confront this problem head-on, I fear for the public health and safety of millions of our most vulnerable Americans.

"In some parts of Vermont, it has been reported that consumers are paying as much as $3.70 a gallon for heating oil and as much as $3.99 a gallon for propane. To put this in perspective, just four years ago, the price for heating oil was only $1.50 a gallon, and propane prices were even lower.

"These outrageously high home heating costs are pushing Vermont families into homelessness. In fact, it is not uncommon for families with two working parents to receive help from homeless shelters in my State because they can't afford anyplace else to live this winter.

"It will not be easy to include increased LIHEAP funding into the economic stimulus bill. But, it's not our job to do what's easy. Our job is to do what is right. And, not only is including LIHEAP in the economic stimulus package the right thing to do, it is the moral thing to do. We have got to get this done.

To watch a video of Sen. Sanders at the Capitol Hill press conference on heating assistance, click here.