When the sequester goes into effect on March 1, funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will be reduced by $177 million. For the millions of low-income families that depend on this program to heat their homes, these cuts could not have happened at a worse time.
Families throughout the Northeast are struggling with high heating bills. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, consumers that heat their homes with oil will spend an average of $2,459 this winter. That is an increase of 17 percent from last year and more than any winter in the past six years. Homes that use natural gas are expected to pay nearly 10 percent more. At the same time, many are still unemployed or dealing with the other lingering effects of the recession.
Last winter, 6.9 million households received help from LIHEAP. Cutting funding now, at a time when every indicator suggests more families need assistance, means a lot of people are going to have to make unimaginable choices. Some will go without food for a day or delay filling a prescription to save enough money to buy more heating oil. Others will put themselves at risk by using their stove or oven for heat. Many will be forced to keep the temperature dangerously low to make it through the winter. While working on this issue on Capitol Hill, I heard too many heartbreaking stories from people who suffered through each winter in a freezing home to believe that cutting LIHEAP is the right thing to do.
If you are looking for a way to make a difference immediately, you can help by donating to an organization that provides fuel assistance to families in need. A donation of $15 will buy a family in New England enough oil to heat their home for another day.
Donate to Keep Maine Warm
Donate to Action for Boston Community Development