Monday, November 05, 2007

PULP Winter Extra Newsletter Highlights New York's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

PULP has issued its annual online PULP News "Winter Extra" covering details of the New York Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). Last year, the program provided "Regular HEAP" benefits to 844,530 low income households and "Emergency HEAP" benefits to 163,007 households experiencing home energy crises.

The program opened November 1, 2007 and will close in the spring when funds are exhausted.The HEAP program in New York operates only to the extent federal funds are available, i.e., the state does not supplement it directly.

The federal funding level for the 2007 - 2008 LIHEAP program has not been resolved, even though the federal fiscal year began October 1. On an interim basis, the program has been continued at last year's level of $2.16 Billion. President Bush proposes cutting the program by 18%, to $1.78 Billion, while congress has proposed modest increases.

If federal LIHEAP funding had kept pace with funding since 1981, the program would be funded today at a $4.2 Billion level. When the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was enacted, LIHEAP was authorized at a $5.1 Billion level, in recognition that energy costs are rising faster than general inflation. These rising energy costs are particularly harmful to low income households, whose incomes have not risen along with general inflation rates. See The Increasing Burden of Energy Costs on Low-income Consumers, American Gas Association, September 26, 2007

It is likely that eventual appropriations for 2007 - 2008 will be in the range of half the amount authorized, and the program will only serve a fraction of the eligible households. Due to the inadequate federal appropriations, the New York HEAP program closes when funds are exhausted. Some states appropriate state funds to supplement HEAP but New York has not, with the exception of the winter of 2005 - 2006 when a conditional appropriation was made.

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