Governors have called on House and Senate appropriators to maintain funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in fiscal 2012 at the current level — $5.1 billion.

The Obama administration earlier this year proposed cutting the program in half in fiscal 2012, which begins on Oct. 1 (see Daily GPI, Feb. 15). “Reducing funding for LIHEAP to under $2.6 billion would endanger the heating assistance received by [an] additional 3.1 million households nationwide who have been able to receive aid under current funding levels,” according to a bipartisan letter supporting LIHEAP, which was circulated by Govs. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and Dennis Daugaard (R-SD) on Capitol Hill.

LIHEAP is a block grant program under which the federal government gives states annual funds to help the needy to pay their heating and air conditioning bills. The program currently helps 8.9 million families heat their homes, a 35% hike since 2008. The program also provides cooling assistance to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.

“This program remains an essential lifeline to those vulnerable households struggling to pay home energy bills…We believe that — consistent with Congress’s budgetary constraints — the $5.1 billion allocation can be met through reduced spending for other, less critical federal programs,” the governors said.

“High rates of unemployment and foreclosures have forced record numbers of Americans, many for the first time, to seek out LIHEAP assistance.”

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