Monday, February 11, 2008

Bush Proposes LIHEAP Cuts in 2009 Budget

President Bush Proposes LIHEAP Funding Cut in 2009 Budget
On February 4, 2008 President Bush issued his budget proposals for the federal 2009 Fiscal Year which begins October 1, 1008. If enacted, funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), would be reduced from $2.522 billion to $2.136 billion, a cut that could eliminate benefits for one million of the nation's neediest households. See More aid for transit in Bush budget; less for health, heat, N.Y.Daily News, Feb. 5, 2008; Bush Budget Ignores Realities of Low-Income Americans. This proposed reduction is similar to the President's proposal for the current year, which was rejected by Congress. See Veto Clouds New York's HEAP Program: More than 200,000 Households May Be Affected

Losing Ground
In the past, each time President Bush proposed LIHEAP cuts, Congress rallied to preserve funding, or to increase it incrementally. Meanwhile, energy costs have risen and so have the energy burdens of the poor. Even with Congressional restoration of funds for 2007-08, the current LIHEAP program functions at a level far below the $5.1 Billion authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That level, never actually appropriated in a budget, would only adjust the LIHEAP funding to the inflation-adjusted level of 1981.

Federal law requires the Secretary of HHS to submit an annual LIHEAP report to Congress
(b) The Secretary shall, no later than June 30 of each fiscal year, submit a report to the Congress containing a detailed compilation of the data under subsection (a) with respect to the prior fiscal year, and a report that describes for the prior fiscal year. (1) the manner in which States carry out the requirements of clauses (2), (5), (8), and (15) of section 2605(b); and (2) the impact of each State's program on recipient and eligible households.
According to the HHS website, "The most recent LIHEAP Report to Congress covers FY 2003." That report indicates that the number of financially eligible households has grown, while the number of those households actually receiving benefits has stagnated:

The funding level for LIHEAP proposed by the Bush administration is the same as it was in 2001, even though household energy costs have risen 65% since 2001. The proposed 2009 LIHEAP cuts drew swift criticism. See, e.g.,
New York's HEAP program provides assistance to more than 800,000 low income households, and receives more LIHEAP money than any other state. As of this writing, New York has not publicly objected to the Bush budget cuts.

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