The rising price of energy is stretching the household budgets of millions of low-income families, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens on fixed incomes. In order to help ensure that no one has to make the unacceptable choice between putting food on the table, paying for critical prescription drugs, or protecting their families from dangerous temperatures in the winter and summer months, Congress needs to take decisive and prompt action. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday read on the Senate floor letters and emails from Vermonters worried about how they will afford to heat their homes this winter. He also introduced legislation to maintain funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program at $4.7 billion.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is the only federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Even though the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance, this funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn and rising energy costs.
The Census Bureau recently reported that 46.2 million people lived in poverty in 2010, the largest number in the 52-year history of published poverty estimates. In addition, according to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association. LIHEAP last year provided vital energy assistance to 8.9 million households, an increase of 54 percent since 2008.