President Bush signed legislation earlier this week that makes an additional $1 billion in energy assistance available to low-income energy consumers in fiscal year 2006.

Of the $1 billion, $500 million will be included in base funding and will be made available to states immediately, while the remaining $500 million will be placed in a separate emergency fund to be distributed at the discretion of the president.

The bill was signed into law just days after the House voted 287 to 128 to reallocate $1 billion that was appropriated for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in fiscal 2007 to the current fiscal year (see Daily GPI, March 20). The Senate approved the measure (S. 2320), which was sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), by voice vote on March 7.

The additional LIHEAP dollars brings base funding in fiscal 2006 to $2.5 billion and emergency funding to $700 million. The American Gas Association (AGA), which represents natural gas utilities, applauded Bush for his quick signing of the LIHEAP bill, which it said will aid poor energy consumers with their heating bills just as many states are beginning to run out of funds.

The AGA also recognized the efforts of Snowe and House lawmakers, who have been trying since November to win more funds for LIHEAP to be disbursed during the current winter heating season, which officially ends at the close of March.

LIHEAP is a federal block grant program that provides money to help low- and fixed-income consumers heat and cool their homes.

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