Home Heating Assistance in the Stimulus Package

WASHINGTON, January 30 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today at a event with home heating assistance advocates on the Capitol grounds:

"The price of energy is skyrocketing. People in my State of 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 and paying for their prescription drugs or putting food on the table. We must not let that happen.

"For my part, I have been very active on this issue. In early December, I introduced the Keeping Americans Warm Act to provide an additional $1 billion in LIHEAP funding with 27 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

"I have also introduced several amendments to increase LIHEAP funding both this month and last.

"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 projects that in some parts of the Northeast, heating oil consumers will pay more than $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 up to $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. 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."

Thirty-five U.S. Senators recently made a bi-partisan request to congressional leadership to add $3.62 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to the economic stimulus package. The increase would fully fund the LIHEAP program at $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2008 and provide an additional $500 million in contingency funds.

At today's event, Senator Sanders joined Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa) at the event in the Senate swamp with community leaders and LIHEAP advocates.