The Bush Administration on Thursday said it released $100 million in emergency contingency funds to states, Native American tribes and territories to assist low-income customers with their energy bills this winter, along with $633 million in block grant funds to states.
The funds will be administered by the Administration for Children and Families through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The federal government has $101 million in remaining emergency LIHEAP monies to help out during crises this winter, according to the Department of Health & Human Services.
Nearly five million low-income households each year receive LIHEAP assistance to pay for home heating and insulation in the winter and air-conditioning in the warmer months, HHS said. It noted that states already have received $1.3 billion in annual block grant funds for the first quarter of fiscal year 2006 under a continuing resolution.
In a related development, three Republican senators from snowbelt states said last week they have been assured by Senate leaders that a vote will be held shortly after Congress returns this month on a stand-alone emergency supplemental bill to provide $2 billion in additional funding for the LIHEAP program this winter.
Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota have received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that a vote on emergency LIHEAP legislation will occur after the Senate takes up the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court this month, Snowe said. Senate confirmation hearings on Alito are scheduled to begin Jan. 9.
The senators negotiated the deal after the Senate in late December stripped out $2 billion in supplemental LIHEAP spending from the defense appropriations bill. Republican leaders took out supplemental LIHEAP monies after another provision in the bill opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) suffered a stinging defeat at the hands of Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans (see Daily GPI, Dec. 22, 2005).
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