Help Low-Income Families Keep the Heat On, Tester Urges Administration

Senator asks Administration to prioritize funding for federal energy programs

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – On the heels of one of the coldest Februarys in Montana history, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to help low-income families keep the heat on.

Tester is calling on the Trump Administration to support the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which help keep energy costs low so Montanans can afford to heat their homes.

“Extreme weather across the United States, including record-breaking cold temperatures in several states recently brought by the polar vortex, have once again highlighted the importance of affordable access to home energy as a matter of health and safety,” Tester wrote. “LIHEAP and WAP have long enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that you will prioritize funding for both programs in your fiscal year 2020 budget proposal.”

Tester is emphasizing the importance of LIHEAP and WAP after President Trump proposed eliminating funding for these two programs last year. Energy cost assistance is particularly critical for low-income families, Tester notes, because heating and cooling costs can take up a large percentage of their monthly incomes.

“This is especially important during the peak winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when energy bills can comprise more than 30 percent of a low-income household’s monthly income,” Tester wrote. “Unfortunately, the number of households eligible for LIHEAP assistance continues to exceed the program’s capacity.”

LIHEAP and WAP serve over six million low-income households in America, more than 17,000 of which are in Montana. Over 71 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one household member who is a child, a senior, or an individual with a disability, and a recent study found weatherization services available through WAP save single-family homes an average of $283 a year in energy costs. Despite their obvious benefits, the President has eliminated funding for both programs in each of his proposed budgets for the last two fiscal years.

Tester has been adamant in his defense of LIHEAP, WAP, and other measures to lower energy costs. He secured $3.64 billion for LIHEAP in the 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill, $3.69 billion in the FY 2019 bill, and he recently introduced the Improving Rural Access to Power Act to lower energy costs and improve electric infrastructure in rural Montana.

You can read Tester’s full letter to the President HERE.