Note: The following opinion-editorial piece was submitted to the St. Louis Post Dispatch in coordination with the Office of Mayor Krewson in St. Louis, MO. Publishing run date TBD. More information about NEUAC's Extra Mile Award is available here.
As Mayor of St. Louis, and during my time on the Board of Aldermen, I have learned to appreciate programs that directly address the pressing needs of my constituents. One such program is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program known as LIHEAP, a national initiative that provides short-term financial help to individuals who are struggling to keep their utilities connected.
LIHEAP is sustained by contributions made by individuals through their utility bills, funds donated by utilities and an annual federal contribution. This federal contribution has a local champion who deserves our sincere thanks, which is why I am congratulating Senator Roy Blunt as the recipient of the 2017 LIHEAP Extra Mile Award presented by the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition.
Every year, this award is issued to a member of Congress for their above-and-beyond efforts in supporting LIHEAP and working to protect critical funding levels for the program.
Senator Blunt has long been an ardent supporter of LIHEAP. In fiscal year 2017, Missouri received $73 million through LIHEAP, giving much needed assistance to more than 200,000 Missouri households in keeping the heat on during brutally cold months and cooling their homes in the midst of our stifling hot and humid summers.
The funds, though temporary for each family, can eliminate the need to make impossible choices, such as heating a home during winter months or keeping food on the table.
While our state’s allocation is just a fraction of the nation’s $3.1 billion total LIHEAP funding, it makes an enormous difference for the families it serves. The maximum family assistance of $450 (in non-crisis situations) can be enough to keep utilities on for our veterans, individuals with disabilities, and households with elderly family members or children under age five.
Senator Blunt demonstrates his acute awareness of the necessity of this program by continuously supporting LIHEAP year-after-year.
“When we’re able to help and see someone’s life change - when they walk through our doors with a sense of despair and leave feeling a little lighter -it’s a wonderful thing,” said Whitney Lanning, executive director of the Communication Action Partnership of St. Joseph, which connects eligible individuals with LIHEAP funds.
More than 68 percent of individuals that turn to the Community Action Partnership for energy and utility assistance are working individuals who are living in poverty status.
To have an advocate like Senator Blunt fighting for this program and these individuals is something our city, and communities across Missouri and the nation, should not take for granted. With the current administration’s twice proposing to eliminate LIHEAP, Senator Blunt’s advocacy is essential, particularly in his role as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services.
The coming year will potentially make or break this program, and our neighbors simply cannot afford to see the program cut from the national budget.
I congratulate Senator Blunt on the receipt of this award. I look forward to collaborating with him as we work to make St. Louis and Missouri a place known for protecting its most vulnerable residents.
Mayor, St. Louis, Missouri