The Administration’s proposed cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) budget could put many of the working poor and low income elderly at risk. Housing, health care, energy costs — all of these factors add to the stress of living on a tight budget. For some, the question of how to heat their homes is actually a matter of life or death. Many LIHEAP recipients are ‘working poor’ or elderly who do not receive any other public assistance through welfare, food stamps, SSI, or subsidized housing.
LIHEAP is a vital measure of last resort for these individuals. Because they are more likely to live in older, poorly insulated homes, older persons — particularly the elderly minority poor — also have a heightened risk of hypothermia. Among low income households, the proportion of income expended for energy consistently amounts to 3-4 times the proportion spent by households across the board.
Based on the Energy Information Administration’s projected increase of $100 to $300 in heating costs per household this winter, it is estimated that an additional $344 million in FY 2003 would be needed to maintain the same purchasing power of the FY 2002 appropriation of $1.7 billion. If the President’s proposal to reduce funding by $300 million is enacted, about 500,000 households nationwide would likely lose program assistance. In addition, 21 states have already indicated they would need to reduce benefit levels.
AARP strongly urges a minimum appropriation of $1.7 billion in regular programming funds for LIHEAP for fiscal 2003.