A short-term continuing resolution (CR), which both houses of Congress were expected to vote out Tuesday, will provide additional funding to states for low-income energy customers.

The Senate was first to pass the CR measure, which would authorize the funding for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $5.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2011. The House was expected to follow suit later Tuesday and send the bill to President Obama to avert a shutdown of the federal government. The CR will fund the federal government through March 4.

So far the federal government has been funded by CRs in FY 2011, and as a result states have been forced to operate at a lower LIHEAP level of $3.3 billion, said the American Gas Association (AGA), which represents natural gas utilities. The latest CR directs the Department of Health and Human Services to allocate the same amount of funding that was provided during this time in FY 2010 when LIHEAP was funded at $5.1 billion.

Although this is not a guarantee that LIHEAP will be fully funded at $5.1 billion for FY 2011, it does mean that funding for the LIHEAP program will be greater than the $3.3 billion in funding for the states, the AGA said.

“The inability of Congress to pass a budget for FY2011 has been disastrous for LIHEAP, especially at this point in the year when the temperatures have dropped significantly,” said AGA CEO David Parker. “Without this critical funding, more than three million low-income householders — nearly eight million Americans — could lose access to LIHEAP.”

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