Webb backs bill to protect heating assistance

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) yesterday joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the LIHEAP Protection Act, which would restore funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration proposed a 45 percent cut in funds for the program, which is structured to help low-income families and seniors on fixed-incomes with their energy bills. The current House and Senate appropriations bills would only partially restore this severe cut.

“For thousands of seniors and low-income families across Virginia, home energy costs have increased beyond their ability to keep up,” said Sen. Webb. “This critical legislation will help ensure they receive the energy assistance they need to make it through the winter.”

According to the Manager of the Energy Assistance Program within the Virginia Department of Social Services, LIHEAP provided vital heating assistance to 144,726 households across the Commonwealth last year—an increase of more than 33 percent since 2008.  A record number of households are widely expected to be served again in 2012.

If funding for LIHEAP is not finalized before winter, millions of households run the risk of not receiving assistance during the coldest months.  Given the uncertainty regarding LIHEAP funding, some states have already begun lowering LIHEAP grant amounts.

Sen. Webb has been a strong supporter of the LIHEAP program. In 2007, he fought efforts by the Bush administration to cut LIHEAP funding in half and later worked to ensure swifter disbursement of funds during the historically cold winter of 2009 and early 2010. In December 2010, he joined a similar effort that successfully preserved LIHEAP funding for FY2011.


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