Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator has authored a bipartisan letter to the White House that he hopes will put money in the hands of needy families who need help heating their homes.
Sen. Bob Casey’s letter calls for the expedited release of heating assistance funds for seniors and low-income families through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) The Democrat said he has recruited 40 members of the Senate as co-signers calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to release the funds.
HHS usually releases the funds to the state November 1st but this year it is holding those funds citing the partial government shutdown. It is unclear when those funds will be released but the shutdown lasted for more than two weeks.
According to Casey, LIHEAP provided roughly 384,334 PA households with financial assistance in 2012.
To be eligible, a household must have an income below 150 percent of the poverty level. There are 1.5 million eligible households in PA.
Casey said the average PA household assistance benefit in Pennsylvania was $408, which covered about 8 percent of their energy bills. However, Casey said it is an important 8 percent.
“Because guess what, if they can pay for their heating it’s going to free up dollars they can spend in the economy,” said Casey who sites a recent study that for every $1.00 spent on LIHEAP a local economy sees $1.13 in new economic activity. “It’s a program that helps people who don’t even need the program itself.”
Along with paying fuel bills, LIHEAP grants can be used to increase a home heating system’s efficiency and help to weatherize an inefficient home.
Casey said this is not the first time LIHEAP has been the subject of a fight.
“You have a group of folks in Washington who have been determined year after year to slash low income heating assistance, to slash food stamps, so they are the problem and we have to fight against them,” Casey said.
Casey said it’s a two-pronged fight. The first is to get the 2013 money out the door before the winter sets in and the second is to preserve the program for the long term.