February 18, 2021

Since "Americans sitting in the cold and dark" is in the news this week, let's recall that the previous so-called president didn't need an arctic blast to leave Americans in the cold. Only a year ago next week, Trump's proposal for addressing the new Coronavirus crisis? Cut home heating assistance to senior citizens and poor people. Natural Resources Defense Council reported at the time:

Recently, a document the Trump administration reportedly sent to members of Congress suggests that the administration is considering transferring $37 million from LIHEAP to emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus threat. The LIHEAP funds are needed to ensure that low-income families have support for home heating cost. The program provides heating and cooling assistance to over 6 million low-income families each year, (about 20 percent of the eligible households), helping poor families cover the cost of high utility bills. These emergency funds play a crucial role in supporting the health and safety of households nationwide by keeping their utilities running and reducing their exposure to weather and pollutants that weaken health.

Recent analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Agency Residential Energy Consumption Survey found that one in three American households was “energy insecure” and faced difficulty paying utility bills or in maintaining adequate heating and cooling in their home. This is happening even as total U.S. expenditures on energy are at the lowest levels in a decade.

LIHEAP programs are a critical lifeline to many families. We can’t allow the president to cover up the fact that he and his administration are unprepared to address threats to public health and are trying to disguise that on the backs of America’s elderly and poorest families.

Note that the heating assistance program only actually helps 20% of those eligible for assistance. When I was on LIHEAP assistance in 2008 in Illinois, it was done by lottery, and required constant re-dialing to reach the overworked and stressed fuel assistance office to get an APPOINTMENT to APPLY for assistance. Eventually as funds dried up, Illinois just disqualified anyone who was under 65. Today, the program is severely underfunded. As the HHS website (2021) notes:

Being qualified for LIHEAP does not guarantee that you will receive help. This depends on how much LIHEAP funds are available for the year. On average, about 20% of households that are qualified for LIHEAP receive benefits. When LIHEAP funds run out for the year, no more benefits can be given out until more funds are made available by Congress.

Forcing poor people to enter a lottery to see if they can have help keeping their home or apartment warm in winter wasn't cruel enough for the Trump administration.

Never again.

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