Congressman Mike Michaud has introduced a bipartisan bill to protect Maine and other states from additional cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). "The LIHEAP Stability Act" would update the formula used to distribute LIHEAP funds to ensure Maine and other qualifying states receive at least what they did when the program was fully funded at $5.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2010.
"We've seen cuts to this program, and the results have been devastating. Even when LIHEAP was fully funded in 2010, we still had Mainers go without assistance," said Michaud. "We need to ensure that states like Maine that continually face high home heating oil costs are made a priority. I'm hopeful we can move this bipartisan bill forward in the lame duck session after the election."
Michaud's bill would protect states like Maine that are heavily dependent on heating oil (at least 25% of households use oil) from further increases in the price of heating oil by providing them at least what they received in 2010. If Congress cuts the LIHEAP budget below 2010 levels, only states that rely on less expensive home heating sources would be affected.
This year, President Obama's Budget for FY2013 proposed cutting an additional $451 million from LIHEAP, reducing the overall funding level for the program to $3.02 billion. In the document justifying these cuts, the President noted that home heating expenditures have fallen for natural gas and electricity users and are expected to remain stable for winter 2012-2013.
At the same time, however, home heating expenditures for heating oil users have increased to record highs and are expected to remain high over the next year. Since 2010, the average cost of heating oil has risen from $2.95 a gallon to $3.77 in 2012. Last winter, home heating oil users spent an average of $2,383. Comparatively, natural gas users spent an estimated $671 and electricity users spent an estimated $934.
While almost 85% of Americans use electricity or natural gas to heat their homes, approximately 70% of Maine households rely on heating oil, the highest rate in the nation. Given the cost increases and volatility, Mainers are particularly hard hit by any cuts to the LIHEAP program.
Original cosponsors of Michaud's bill include: Peter King, Don Young, Charlie Rangel, Michael Grimm, Richard Neal, Barney Frank, Gary Ackerman, Peter Welch, Brian Higgins, Chellie Pingree, Frank Guinta, James Langevin, Jose Serrano, Jerrold Nadler, Edolphus Towns, Stephen Lynch, Maurice Hinchey, Paul Tonko, and John Tierney.