Legislation: Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act

Senator Sanders introduced the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act to support American families struggling to afford their home energy bills. Majority Leader Reid agreed to fast-track this bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

"This country is struggling with emergency situations from floods in the Midwest to wildfires in California. But there is another emergency which must be dealt with NOW," said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "At a time when the cost of home heating fuels an

Senator Sanders introduced the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act to support American families struggling to afford their home energy bills. Majority Leader Reid agreed to fast-track this bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

"This country is struggling with emergency situations from floods in the Midwest to wildfires in California. But there is another emergency which must be dealt with NOW," said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "At a time when the cost of home heating fuels and electricity are soaring, and when the economy is in a decline, millions of Americans are finding it harder and harder to stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer."

The $2.53 billion in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding included in this legislation is split equally between the formula funding that benefits the warm weather states and the contingency funding which usually benefits the cold weather states. The $1.265 billion increase under the formula would go directly to the states for either cooling or heating assistance.

Program funding is 23 percent less than it was just two years ago, completely eviscerating the purchasing power of this extremely important program. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, the federal government spent more money on home energy assistance 20 years ago than it is spending today.

Watch Senator Sanders' floor speech regarding his bill here.

LIHEAP doesn't just help constituents in the north stay warm in the winter; it also helps people in the south stay cool in the summer.

How much extra funding would your state receive under S.3186?

State

Total Amount

Alabama

$52,207,684

Alaska

$17,224,945

Arizona

$24,680,040

Arkansas

$25,935,782

California

$104,391,398

Colorado

$30,941,799

Connecticut

$59,797,655

Delaware

$10,504,003

District of Columbia

$4,417,781

Florida

$80,747,364

Georgia

$70,287,805

Hawaii

$1,423,198

Idaho

$8,241,310

Illinois

$117,386,938

Indiana

$54,371,472

Iowa

$24,565,050

Kansas

$26,126,049

Kentucky

$34,848,044

Louisiana

$44,396,681

Maine

$36,596,392

Maryland

$52,460,930

Massachusetts

$98,973,680

Michigan

$114,609,254

Minnesota

$52,362,731

Mississippi

$25,751,789

Missouri

$70,266,851

Montana

$17,484,318

Nebraska

$21,896,359

Nevada

$11,591,748

New Hampshire

$27,079,492

New Jersey

$80,311,579

New Mexico

$11,318,104

New York

$250,435,966

North Carolina

$79,433,121

North Dakota

$18,992,480

Ohio

$112,567,399

Oklahoma

$36,381,394

Oregon

$11,251,668

Pennsylvania

$210,357,690

Rhode Island

$21,088,119

South Carolina

$37,911,568

South Dakota

$15,425,279

Tennessee

$47,606,182

Texas

$134,336,826

Utah

$17,758,527

Vermont

$20,567,956

Virginia

$59,805,322

Washington

$17,316,565

West Virginia

$15,394,074

Wisconsin

$47,133,976

Wyoming

$7,109,737

Territories

$346,926


It's not just heating oil prices that are skyrocketing, electricity prices are also soaring. Just recently the USA Today ran a headline on its front page that said: "Price jolt: Electricity bills going up, up, up." According to this article, "Utilities across the USA are raising power prices up to 29%, mostly to pay for soaring fuel costs . . . . The spikes come after rising fuel prices already have driven up utility bills nearly 30% the past five years, the sharpest jump since the 1970s energy crisis."

Groups supporting this legislation include the AARP; American Corn Growers Association; the American Gas Association; the Federation of Southern Cooperatives; the Ohio Farmers Union; the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union; the National Grange; Oklahoma Farmers Union; Texas Farmers Union; the Pennsylvania Farmers Union; the National Conference of State Legislatures; the National Community Action Foundation; the National Association of State Energy Officials; the Alliance for Rural America; the Northeast Public Power Association; the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; the National Association for State Community Services Programs; Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy; the Edison Electric Institute; the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals; the National Fuel Funds Network; the Petroleum Marketers Association of America; Office of the Ohio Consumers' Council; Exelon Corporation; and Women Involved In Farm Economics.

Senators supporting this bill hail from around the country including Democratic Senators Obama, Harry Reid, Durbin, Murray, Landrieu, Leahy, Clinton, Cantwell, Jack Reed, Kerry, Kennedy, Schumer, Biden, Dorgan, Boxer, Kohl, Mikulski, McCaskill, Levin, Cardin, Brown, Klobuchar, Menendez, Casey, Bingaman, Lautenberg, Stabenow, Bill Nelson, Baucus, Salazar, Wyden, Whitehouse, Rockefeller, Dodd, Tester and independent Sen. Lieberman and Republican Senators Coleman, Grassley, Smith, Snowe, Stevens, Sununu, Collins, Murkowski, Gregg, Lugar, Bond and Dole.

Warm Weather States Running Out of LIHEAP Funding

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is the one federal program that helps consumers stay cool in the summer.

Texas: Due to a lack of LIHEAP funding, the state of Texas only provides air conditioning assistance to about 4 percent of those who qualify.

Louisiana: Without additional support from the federal government, the state of Louisiana will run out of LIHEAP funding by the end of July.

Mississippi: Without additional support from the federal government, the state of Mississippi will run out of LIHEAP funding by the end of July.

West Virginia: LIHEAP program already ran out of funding last May.

Georgia: Without additional support from the federal government, the state of Georgia will not be able to offer any LIHEAP assistance whatsoever to its residents this summer. Currently, Georgia has a waiting list of 28,000 people hoping to receive some relief from the hot weather this summer.

Kentucky: Unless this bill is signed into law, the State of Kentucky will not be able to keep any of their residents cool this summer through the LIHEAP program. According to the Executive Director of the Community Action Agency in Kentucky, Kip Bowmar, "February of 2008 marked the first time in the program's history that all 120 counties in Kentucky ran out of LIHEAP funds forcing us to close our doors as fuel prices were soaring and people needed help."

Florida: Hilda Frazier, the LIHEAP Director for the state of Florida, has estimated that they will serve 26,000 fewer households this year because of the reduction of available LIHEAP funding and the rising cost of energy. Of the 2 million LIHEAP eligible households in Florida, they will be able to assist fewer than 4 percent of them.

Arkansas: The state of Arkansas is rapidly running out of funding. The program coordinator in Benton, Arkansas, recently had to deny assistance to over 430 families there due to a lack of funding.

Arizona: Without increased support from the federal government, Arizona will be out of LIHEAP funding before the end of this month. Over the past decade, more than 400 people died of heat exposure in Arizona, including 31 in July of 2005 alone. All of these deaths could have been prevented if these people had air conditioning.

California: Joan Graham, The Deputy Director of the Community Action Agency in Sacramento, California recently wrote that "Every day, we are turning away at least 50 families who qualify for LIHEAP because we lack resources. Energy bills have increased 30% over last year, yet our funding has not increased. In 2006, there were 29 heat-related deaths in Sacramento County. One senior who passed away due to extreme heat was afraid to turn on his air conditioner because he knew he would be unable to pay the electric bill. We know there are more like him out there at present."

Heat Related Deaths

• According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1998, the annual mortality rate from extreme heat in the U.S. has exceeded the death tolls of floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined since 1998. Meanwhile, fewer resources have been allocated to heat-related problems than to other extreme weather events.

• From 1999-2003, over 3,400 deaths in this country were due to excessive heat. All of these deaths were preventable and air conditioning is the best way to prevent these deaths, according to the CDC.


Utility Shut-Offs

• According to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, a record-breaking 15.6 million American families or nearly 15 percent of all households are at least 30 days overdue in paying their utility bills.

• Rapidly rising energy costs are the major reason that so many Americans are late in paying their energy bills. There has been seen a 162 percent increase in energy costs since 2000.

• USA Today recently reported that "Electricity and natural gas shutoffs are up at least 15% in several states compared with last year. Totals for some utilities have more than doubled." The article included these examples:

  • "In Pennsylvania, PPL Electric Utilities disconnected 7,054 customers through April this year, up 168% over the same 2007 period."
  • "Duke Energy in North Carolina is averaging about 11,000 shutoffs a month, 14% above last year."
  • "Disconnects are up 27% for Peoples Gas in Chicago, 14% for Southern California Edison and 56% for Detroit Edison. In Michigan, where home foreclosures are soaring and the unemployment rate is the USA's highest, more than one in five Detroit Edison customers were behind in their electric bills in May."

    You can read the legislation here.