On the same day President Bush vetoed the Labor-HHS spending bill, which included much needed funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), outside experts warned of the rising heating costs families could face this winter. In fact, the President raised concern about the rising cost of oil the very same day he vetoed the LIHEAP funds. Unfortunately, with his veto the President placed these funds in jeopardy and with home heating oil potentially rising as high as 26 percent, Democrats are seeking to override the President’s veto. Senate Republicans must now decide whether they stand with the President or America’s families.
Democrats Fought To Help Families Cope With Rising Winter Heating Costs By Strengthening the LIHEAP Program….. In the fiscal 2008 Labor-HHS spending bill, Democrats boosted funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to families struggling with winter heating bills. For fiscal year 2008, the Labor-HHS spending bill allocated $2.4 billion for the LIHEAP program. [Congress Daily, 11/14/07]
….Unfortunately, President Bush Yesterday Vetoed the Increase in LIHEAP Funds. Because he vetoed the Labor-HHS spending bill, the President placed the $2.4 billion in LIHEAP funds in jeopardy. In his budget, the President significantly under-funded the program by seeking to only spend $1.7 billion. [Congress Daily, 11/14/07]
Curiously, President Bush Expressed Concern About the Rising Cost of Energy The Same Day He Vetoed Increased Funds for LIHEAP. In a speech yesterday, President Bush derided Congress for not passing an energy bill in light of rising oil prices, the same day he vetoed increased funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In his speech, the President specifically voiced concern about the price of oil reaching nearly $100 a barrel and said, “America clearly needs legislation that expands the use of ethanol and biodiesel, promotes energy conservation, invests in advanced technologies like clean coal and nuclear power. Listen, breaking our reliance on oil and gas is not going to happen overnight.” [Remarks by President Bush Delivered 11/13/07]
According to Department of Energy Officials, Energy Costs Could Rise Sharply This Winter. Officials with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) warned the cost of heating oil could rise 26 percent. In addition, the EIA warned propane costs could rise 20 percent, natural gas 11 percent and electricity 3 percent. [Congress Daily, 11/14/07]
- Low Income Families Spend Upwards of 15 Percent of their Income on Home Energy Bills. In testimony yesterday before a congressional committee, Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association argued low-income families spend on average about 15 percent of their income on home energy bills, compared to 3.4 percent for all other households. [Reuters, 11/13/07]
- Outside Experts Agree Funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Must Be Increased. In his testimony, Wolfe also said, “If energy prices increase at a faster rate or we have a colder winter than projected, then without an additional increase in federal funding, the purchasing power of LIHEAP will be dramatically diminished.” In addition, Richard Roldan, President of the National Propane Gas Association, harshly criticized the President in a letter in which he wrote, “The unjustified reduction proposed in your budget will leave the states with few choices but to cut services, close the program early, or eliminate funding. As a result, low income households will have little choice but to decide between heating their homes or having to cut back on food, medicine and other household necessities. By reducing the funding for LIHEAP, you are reducing not only the overall effectiveness of the program, but also the number of households assisted.” [Congress Daily, 11/14/07; Reuters, 11/13/07; National Propane Gas Association Press Release, 2/9/07]