This is the first LIHEAP funding increase in five years and the largest since 2009.
March 29, 2018
Omnibus Bill Increases Fuel Assistance Funding
(As reported by the New England Fuel Institute)
In a surprising move, members of Congress not only rejected President Trump’s call to eliminate fuel assistance funding — they chose to increase it. The FY18 Omnibus spending bill (H.R.1625) approved last week increases funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $250 million (7.5%), from $3.39 billion to $3.64 billion. This is the first LIHEAP funding increase in five years and the largest since 2009.
Lawmakers also preserved or increased several energy efficiency programs. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which supports state efforts to weatherize low-income homes, saw a $23 million (10%) increase, from $228 million to $251 million. The State Energy Program, which provides support for state efficiency programs and emergency preparedness, saw a $5 million (10%) increase, from $50 million to $55 million. Congress also maintains funding for the popular Energy Star® program at the Department of Energy. President Trump had asked Congress to eliminate all of these programs.
The House of Representatives approved the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Thursday by a vote of 256-167. The Senate then approved the bill by a vote of 65-32 on Friday. In both chambers, the bill enjoyed significant Democratic support while Republicans were virtually split. Despite being “unhappy” with the final version, the President immediately signed it in to law, citing his support for the $80 billion increase in defense spending – the largest in 15 years. Failure to sign the bill would have resulted in a government shutdown.
NEFI actively lobbied in support of LIHEAP funding and participated in the annual “Action Day” event on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Along with scores of allies from the utility sector, low-income resident advocates and community action agencies, NEFI met with key legislative offices in support of the program. Congress now moves on to the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2019. NEFI will continue to voice its support for LIHEAP. We are also working to identify areas in which the program can be improved to address the administration’s concerns with its efficacy and to encourage greater participation among heating oil and propane dealers.
The Fuel Company works with customers who are eligible for fuel assistance programs. Call us at 508-388-1009 if you need assistance or more information on programs. We’re here to help!