By Joe Gibbons
Chairman, Energy Equity Alliance
There may officially be one more month of winter left, but this does not mean that we stop thinking about ways to increase funding for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). LIHEAP, a federal program that helps low-income households pay for heating or cooling their homes, and WAP, a federal program that enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes energy efficient, make a significant contribution to increasing the energy security of low-income households.
Budget negotiations for fiscal year 2018 will begin, in earnest, in a few weeks when President Trump submits his first budget to Congress. So far, I have not heard President Trump discuss LIHEAP or WAP, much less acknowledge its importance. Fortunately, President Trump is getting some input from seasoned members of Congress who are urging him to increase funding for LIHEAP and WAP.
The Associated Press recently reported that U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, are leading 43 other U.S. senators, including 42 Democrats and one Republican, in an effort to persuade President Trump to increase funding for LIHEAP and WAP in his fiscal year 2018 budget request.
Senator Collins has a keen interest in energy affordability. Eighty percent of Maine’s families rely on oil for their heating needs. Known for her ability to work across the aisle, the Maine Republican has also showed continued interest in low income issues as evidenced by her recent co-sponsorship of the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act of 2017.
Senator Reed has also made access to affordable energy one of his top priorities. He has billed himself as a leading champion for both LIHEAP and WAP one in three Rhode Islanders rely on oil to heat their homes during harsh New England winters.
The Energy Equity Alliance (EEA), an organization with a primary focus on ensuring that energy assistance programs get to the neediest amongst us while seeking long-term, sustainable solutions, is pleased to see this type of bi-partisan sentiment towards LIHEAP and WAP. We need to see this type of effort in the House of Representatives as well, given that budget and appropriations bills start in the House. Endorsing the bi-partisan efforts to increase LIHEAP and WAP spending that we see shaping up in the Senate would be a great start.