Washington, DC—Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) urged that Congress ignore the cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that President Bush laid out in his Fiscal Year 2008 budget released yesterday. In a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (SC-05) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (WI-07) today, Higgins asked that full funding be granted to LIHEAP and WAP when Congress passes the Fiscal Year 2008 budget and relevant appropriations bills.
“Families across the nation rely on LIHEAP and WAP to cover the cost of home heating, cooling and weatherization, yet the President’s proposal would cut funding for these programs by $978,950,429 and $98,000,000 respectively,” said Higgins. “During extreme weather conditions, people living in poverty and low-income elderly often have to choose between buying fuel to heat or cool their homes or buying food and medicine. These programs help save people from making such difficult choices and are essential in cold weather regions like Western New York, which I represent. This week alone in my district we’ve seen record low temperatures that have forced schools to close because it’s not safe for children to wait for the bus or to walk to school; it’s not safe for them to remain in unheated homes either.
Under the President’s budget, New York State would see a devastating $63,893,603 cut in LIHEAP funding, from $250,974,273 to $180,080,670. Western New York is in a difficult position when it comes to energy costs. The region consumes high amounts of heating oil to stay warm in the winter and pays high electricity costs during the hot summer months. Because many homes in my district are older, wood-frame buildings, they are difficult to heat during cold winters. Many LIHEAP awards are coupled with funds for weatherization that do not just bring down the cost of home heating, but bring down the rate of energy consumption. WAP has been proven to reduce heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $274 per year.
Higgins continued, “Under current levels, only 25 percent of eligible families in Western New York receive LIHEAP aid; there is not enough funding to cover 75 percent of those in need. The President’s budget will leave even more Western New Yorkers out in the cold as funding cuts, coupled with higher energy costs, will mean that even fewer families will receive funding next year, or that families will receive help with a smaller percentage of their heating bills.”