Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New York Asks Congress to Fully Fund Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

OTDA Asks to Double LIHEAA Funding for New York
New York State has included full funding of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in its federal legislative agenda. Congress for years has for years appropriated about half the authorized limit of $5.1 billion for the program. Funding at the $5.1 billion level would adjust program benefits to be equivalent with 1981 funding and energy costs.

According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) 2008 Federal Agenda:
New York’s Recommendation: Congress should start funding the LIHEAP program at the full $5.1 billion annual authorization level. The appropriation has never provided the full amount. New York would receive $502.2 million annually if LIHEAP were fully funded. Furthermore, to allow states to plan for upcoming needs, Congress should finalize the LIHEAP funding level, both the regular funds and contingency funds, at the start of each federal fiscal year.
According to the OTDA 2008 Federal Agenda, "New York State’s share of LIHEAP funds has ranged unpredictably between $244 million in 2004 to more than $300 million in 2008." OTDA used much of the supplemental federal funds for 2008 for a second emergency payment requiring additional applications under more stringent conditions, which in part supplanted assistance the state would have provided under other assistance categories.

PULP urged greater public participation in the process for allocating supplemental HEAP funds and suggested using part of them for an automatic supplemental Regular HEAP payment. See
PULP Comments on HEAP Plan for 2008 -2009.

According to April 2008 HEAP program statistics, 943,147 benefits were authorized (some of them multiple emergency payments) totalling $246.4 million. Fifteen percent of New York's HEAP funds are targeted for weatherization programs. The New York HEAP program is now closed, with the exception of the furnace replacement program, and is not expected to reopen for new applications until November 1.

President Bush proposed in February to eliminate all funding for low income weatherization and to reduce funding for LIHEAP. See Bush Proposes Elimination of Low Income Home Weatherization Program, and Bush Proposes LIHEAP Cuts in 2009 Budget.

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