Skelton urges release of Federal Home Energy Assistance Program funding
By: U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 17, 2010) — Though the winter season is young, Missourians have experienced one of the coldest periods in recent memory. Many in the Fourth Congressional District awoke Christmas morning to fresh snow, and, two weeks ago, temperatures plummeted amid more snow, high winds, and tall snow drifts. And, as these tough weather conditions drive heating costs up, many Americans continue to face bleak economic hardships. That is why, last week, I signed a letter to President Obama urging him to release contingency resources from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
In 1981, Congress established the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help struggling households pay for necessary energy costs. The program makes annual grants to states and territories in two forms: regular funds and contingency funds. While the regular funds are allotted in constant increments, the contingency funding is held by the federal government and only used in cases of natural disaster, tough economic conditions, or other emergencies.
Clearly, several conditions currently affecting our nation merit the release of these funds. The American economy continues to suffer from the worst recession in decades. Many, throughout the nation and Missouri, have lost their jobs and cannot find other work. In fact, almost 165,000 residents of the Fourth District have no income except federal food stamps.
In addition, a recent cold snap brought freezing weather to much of the country, even as far south as Florida. Mid Missouri suffered several days of dangerously cold wind and snow, and sustained periods of warmer weather may not arrive for another few months. Coupled with the already-faltering economy, this cold weather threatens to harm many families who cannot afford high energy costs and necessitates the release of these funds. Releasing emergency LIHEAP funding will help thousands of families and seniors with their energy bills. Less burdened by energy bills, these low-income families have more to spend on other essentials, and can avoid the choice between paying energy bills and putting food on their table.
In Missouri, LIHEAP funds are dispersed through local Community Action Agencies. To find the contact information of your local Agency or to request assistance, call the Missouri Association of Community Action at (573) 634-2969 or go online to www.communityaction.org
For some Americans, this is an issue of life and death. The LIHEAP contingency funds were created for precisely this situation, and so I have not hesitated, along with my colleagues both Republican and Democrat, to urge the Administration to provide this much-needed relief.
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.