Grassley Seeks Additional Funding to Help Pay for Energy and Improve Energy Efficiency
Grassley said that without the basic assistance provided by the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program known as LIHEAP, "many families and older people in Iowa would literally have been forced to chose between heating their homes or putting food on the table over the last ten years."
Last year alone, the LIHEAP program provided heating assistance to 60,284 Iowans. In 1998, 61,909 Iowans were helped. More Iowans are expected to receive assistance through the program this year. Nationwide, LIHEAP provides heating and cooling assistance to almost 5 million low-income households, including the working poor, those making the transition from welfare to work, the disabled and elderly, and families with young children.
Along with other senators, Grassley has asked a Senate appropriations subcommittee to provide at least $1.4 billion in regular funds and $300 million in emergency LIHEAP funding for fiscal 2001. The letter delivered this week to the leadership of the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education also seeks at least $1.5 billion in advance funding.
Regular funding for LIHEAP has declined 48 percent since fiscal 1985. As a result, fewer eligible families have received smaller benefits. Only 15 percent of the 29 million eligible households are currently being served by LIHEAP. The budget cuts have affected mostly low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled. "It is time to begin restoring the program to its full potential," wrote Grassley and other senators.
In addition, this week Grassley also urged Senate appropriators to direct federal dollars to energy efficiency programs. In a letter to the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, Grassley and other senators urged that the Weatherization Assistance Program be funded at $175 million and the State Energy Program be funded at $44 million in fiscal 2001.
The weatherization program works to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households, especially those with children and disabled or elderly members. Improvements typically save a household $193 annually in natural gas costs and, on average, the typical weatherized home reduces energy usage by over 20 percent. In fiscal 1995, funding for this program was $226 million. It dropped to $135 million in fiscal 2000. In addition, Congress imposed a 25 percent match requirement on states in last year's budget. Grassley and his colleagues asked for this requirement to be dropped.
The state-level energy program for which they are seeking additional funding leverages private, state and local resources to help improve the energy efficiency of schools, hospitals, small businesses, the agriculture sector and industrial firms. Grassley said funding for this program dropped from $53 million in fiscal 1995 to $33.5 million in fiscal 2000.
Iowans who need information about LIHEAP or the Weatherization Assistance Program should contact one of Iowa's 18 community action agencies located in Carroll, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Creston, Marshalltown, Remsen, Des Moines, Mason City, Decorah, Dubuque, Waterloo, Indianola, Leon, Burlington, Ottumwa, Graettinger, Harlan, or Sioux City. Or, go to www.state.ia.us/government/dhr/caa. For more information, Iowans can contact the administrating office in Des Moines at the Department of Human Rights at 515/281-4204.
LIHEAP applicants must furnish their Social Security number, a copy of their most recent energy bill, and proof of income. To qualify, a household of four must fall below a $25,050 annual gross income.