OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR NEWS
ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH - GOVERNOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT:
September 24, 2006 Abby Ottenhoff 312.814.3158
Gerardo Cardenas 312.814.3158
Amy Rosenband (HFS) 312.814.0908
Gov. Blagojevich calls on President Bush to release more federal LIHEAP funds for Midwestern states
Home heating bills expected to be higher, at-risk households
urged to takes steps before winter heating season
CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich called on President George W. Bush to release an additional $22 million in energy assistance funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to ensure that Midwestern low-income families can pay their gas bills. The original $80 million dedicated to the project was distributed according to a formula which only counted fuel oil as a source of heat, yet most Midwestern consumers use natural gas. As a result, the low-income families in Illinois and other Midwestern states have not benefited from additional energy assistance.
“Mr. President, the LIHEAP program exists to help low-income families to pay their home energy bills and is not specific to the type of fuel that they use. So, the assistance provided under LIHEAP should not single out only one type of fuel but should provide relief to all families in need,” Gov. Blagojevich wrote in a letter to President Bush.
According to the formula created for the additional funds, states will receive a portion of these funds only if they have satisfied two criteria: 15 percent or more of their low-income households use fuel oil for heat and below average temperatures of less than 47 degrees for the six-month period ending March 31, 2006. This formula excludes people from Midwestern states who rely on natural gas to heat their homes, despite the fact that Midwestern winters can be extremely cold. Natural gas prices have doubled since 2003, so many low income households will struggle to pay their gas bills this winter.
“As families in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest prepare for a long, cold winter with rising utility bills from all types of fuel, your administration must put all existing dollars to use to provide relief,” wrote Gov. Blagojevich to the President.
The Energy Information Administration, which releases official energy statistics from the U.S. Government, stated last month that, “average heating oil prices will be about 16 percent higher this winter compared to last winter.” Through LIHEAP, run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), heating bill payments will be made on behalf of seniors, the disabled, and those currently without home heating during the priority period.
LIHEAP is a state-and federally-funded energy assistance program that assists households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. A single-person household can qualify with
a monthly income of up to $1,225, a two-person household up to $1,650, and a family of four can earn up to $2,500. Benefits will be paid directly to the household’s appropriate utility.
The energy grant applications are processed through a network of 35 Local Administering Agencies around the state. These agencies started accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly, disabled persons, and other priority households on September 1. The local administering agencies will accept applications from all other income-eligible households starting on November 1, 2005 until funding for the winter heating program is exhausted. The winter heating program is expected to serve 300,000 households this winter with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
This summer approximately 47,000 households received assistance statewide from the Summer Cooling program though LIHEAP. Under Governor Blagojevich’s direction, HFS provided a total of $8,503,187 in direct assistance to families. The total number served far exceeded the initial estimate of 40,000 applicants, which indicates that the LIHEAP Summer Cooling Program was a timely response to the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the population: the elderly, disabled, and households with children. The coordinated outreach efforts by the Local Administering Agencies and LIHEAP staff combined to make the program a great success.
LIHEAP serves as many households as possible while giving priority to households with the greatest energy burden and households whose health and safety is threatened. For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administrating agencies and additional information about the grant program, go to www.liheapillinois.com
, or call the toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-877-411-WARM
A copy of Gov. Blagojevich’s letter to Pres. Bush is below.
September 24, 2006
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Last week your administration released $80 million in energy assistance funding under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in anticipation of the winter heating season. In doing so, the Department of Health and Human Services used a formula that considered only the percentage of low-income people using fuel oil to heat their homes. Unfortunately, this formula did not provide Illinois and other Midwestern states with the additional federal heating assistance funds they need to help families cope with the high cost of home heating during this fall and winter. Therefore, I ask you to release the remaining $22 million in federal heating assistance funds to Illinois and other Midwestern states that did not benefits from the funds just released.
States will receive a portion of these funds only if they have satisfied two criteria: 15 percent or more of their low-income households use fuel oil for heat and below average temperatures of less than 47 degrees for the six-month period ending March 31, 2006.
Since most Midwestern states rely mainly on natural gas for home heating, this standard excludes Illinois and other states with long, cold winters and large numbers of families suffering from severe heating cost increases. Natural gas prices have doubled since 2003 with no end to the market volatility in sight. And since eight out of ten Illinois residents heat their home with natural gas, these rising prices are a significant financial burden for Illinois families.
All states received shares of the first FY 2006 awards. But this most recent release of funds only targets 14 states. Directing the vast majority of these funds to eastern states – including some with warmer climates and shorter winters than Illinois – while denying needed heating assistance to Midwestern states ignores the needs of our struggling families. As families in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest prepare for a long, cold winter with rising utility bills from all types of fuel, your administration must put all existing dollars to use to provide relief.
Mr. President, the LIHEAP program exists to help low-income families to pay their home energy bills and is not specific to the type of fuel that they use. So, the assistance provided under LIHEAP should not single out only one type of fuel but should provide relief to all families in need. Again, I urge you to release the remaining $22 million in federal heating assistance funds to Illinois and other Midwestern states that were not given due consideration in the latest release of funds.