MADIGAN & 14 ATTORNEYS GENERAL OPPOSE ELIMINATION OF CRITICAL LOW-INCOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
35 Attorneys General & State Consumer Advocates Urge Congress to Expand Funding for Millions of Vulnerable Residents
Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today led a coalition of 14 other attorneys general and state consumer advocate agencies to urge members of Congress to preserve and expand Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funding in the 2018 federal budget.
In a letter submitted to Congress today, Madigan, the other attorneys general and advocates conveyed the importance of LIHEAP and WAP to their states and expressed opposition to the proposed elimination or reduction of their funding within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Community Services budget.
"Since 1981, LIHEAP has helped millions of vulnerable residents retain essential utility service, thereby protecting public health and safety, reducing homelessness and ensuring the stability of utility revenues. In Fiscal Year ("FY") 2017 alone, it is expected that about 6.1 million households nationwide will receive heating and cooling assistance through LIHEAP. The Program operates in every state and the District of Columbia, as well as on most tribal reservations and U.S. territories," the attorneys general stated in their letter.
Madigan and the coalition emphasized the role both LIHEAP and WAP play in aiding low-income residents in paying for their home energy costs. Annual distributions of LIHEAP funds specifically prioritize seniors and families with small children. Seventy percent of recipient households have at least one member who is elderly or disabled or have a child under the age of six. In Illinois, the LIHEAP program for fiscal year 2017 has helped more than 305,000 households. Madigan argues that without this vital assistance, many of these families would be faced with the impossible choice of opting between heating and cooling their homes and paying for other necessities, such as food and medications.
Likewise, WAP has served 7 million households over 40 years. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that WAP has helped low-income households reduce their total energy expenditures by 23 percent per year, allowing participating households to allocate scarce resources for other necessities.
Madigan noted that anticipated funding for fiscal year 2017, which ends September 30, does not come close to meeting the extraordinary need for either of these funds. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, only 19 percent of eligible households are expected to be served. Since 2010, congressional funding for LIHEAP has fallen by more than a third. This decrease in funding has resulted in more than one million fewer eligible households receiving critical energy assistance. Madigan and the other attorneys general urged Congress to restore and increase LIHEAP funding, so that fewer families are "left out in the cold."
"LIHEAP and WAP funds have provided a critical lifeline to customers who struggle each month to pay for life's necessities by assisting them to remain connected to essential utility services. We strongly urge you to oppose any measure that would reduce or eliminate funding for these critical programs, and instead increase these essential and cost-effective services," the letter concluded.
Attorney General Madigan is a champion for residents fighting high and unfair utility costs. She reached an $18.5 million settlement with Peoples Gas in May 2016 for misleading consumers about its main replacement program that could have inexplicably cost Chicago residents $8 billion. Madigan's Public Utilities Bureau regularly educates Illinois residents on how best to choose energy suppliers and how to avoid inflated costs from alternative energy suppliers. For more information on LIHEAP and other public utility matters, please visit Attorney General Madigan's Public Utilities Resources page.
Madigan led the coalition of attorneys general in filing today's letter from the following states: California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, and Washington, D.C., as well as 20 consumer advocates, representing a total of 28 states.
A copy of the letter is here.