BURLINGTON, Vt., Sept. 29 - Warning of a "severe winter health emergency," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders today urged President Barack Obama to budget at least $5.1 billion in the coming year for home heating assistance.
The White House in February asked Congress to cut in half funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program which helps senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and low-income families with children afford to heat their homes in the winter.
The president's budget request for $2.6 billion was based on what turned out to be seriously-flawed projections that energy prices would fall. At the time Obama's spending plan was sent to Capitol Hill, however, the president said he would reconsider how much to allot for heating assistance if oil prices soared. Unfortunately, they have.
The average price of heating oil now is expected to be more this winter than it was during the price spike in 2008, according to the Obama administration's own Energy Information Administration. In Vermont, heating oil prices are projected to be about 25 percent higher this year than last winter and could soon top $4 a gallon.
Six New England governors, including Vermont's Peter Shumlin, recently warned the president about significant shortfalls in home heating assistance funds. State officials say millions of families could be cut from the program at a time when poverty is increasing and many continue to struggle with the ongoing recession.
"At a time when heating oil prices are projected to skyrocket, and when Vermonters and people throughout the country continue to struggle through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I would urge you to make it clear to Congress and the American people that LIHEAP must be fully funded at no less than $5.1 billion," Sanders said in a letter delivered to the White House today.
"In the richest country on the face of the earth, senior citizens and children should not be going cold this winter," the senator concluded.
To read the letter, click here.