LIHEAP News Wrap-Up - Pt. 1

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Writing and Reporting by Jake Brown

For those families across Nebraska impacted by the devastating flooding that swept the state in March, LIHEAP provided a great source of assistance in the aftermath for thousands of families struggling to get back on their feet. U.S. Senator Ben Sasse addressed the fact that along with figuring out how to get their heat back on after water flooded their basement furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, etc and get flood damage repairs made to their dwellings if still standing that could impact their structural safety during a winter that featured frigid temperatures and ice-cold winds blowing till well into April, in the case of some houses he toured, “you’re going to have to tear them down and rebuild them from the foundations back up…You have a lot of farmers and ranchers who are already thinking now about harvest next fall — how are they going to be able to get crops and livestock to market when a lot of the roads don’t exist?”  

The Sands Hill Express highlighted as an immediate helping hand that “flood- and blizzard-impacted Nebraskans who use assistance programs administered by Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services may be eligible for additional food, energy and heating assistance...Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds can be used in certain crisis situations involving home energy needs resulting from natural disasters — utility reconnection costs; repair or replacement costs for furnaces and air conditioners; insulation repair; crisis payments for utilities and utility deposits; and purchase of fans, air conditioners and generators.”



With a baking summer fast approaching, Vermont’s Rep. Peter Welch lead the authorship of a letter to the their fellow members in leadership, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Tom Cole, regarding the upcoming FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, appealing against a budget cut to the LIHEAP program, which longtime advocate Welch pointing out the important fact that “LIHEAP helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter months and the hot summer months.  LIHEAP households are among the most vulnerable in the country. For these households, LIHEAP funding has been a lifeline during challenging economic times. Access to affordable home energy is not a luxury—it is a matter of health and safety.”



Up in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Barker got a visit from a prominent group of energy assistance advocates urging the immediate release of Emergency Heating Assistance funds to help thousands of families facing post-winter moratorium catch-up trying to dig out from a pile of heating bills that had been stacking up for months.  With the state’s LIHEAP administrators racing to play their own catch-pup from the $11 million cut from 2018’s LIHEAP funding from $147 to $136 million, Georgia Katsoulomitis –  executive director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute – arguing that “it’s really unfortunate that households have to choose between paying rent, paying utility bills, buying food or buying medicine.”  Thankfully, their efforts paid off after Colleen Arons of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development announced within days that “the Baker-Polito Administration…will support the use of $19 million in state funds in FY19 to fund a one-time increase in benefits this year, providing thousands of Massachusetts households with additional assistance for this year's heating costs and a head start for those who use oil on next year’s winter heating season.”