The infamous groundhog predicts another six weeks of winter, while Iowa Senator Tom Harkin renews his call to boost money for a program that helps low-income Americans pay their heating bills. Harkin, a Democrat, says the Bush Administration must support a critically-needed increase in funding for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
Harkin says “We have voted four times since last October to increase LIHEAP funding but we just can’t get the job done and the Bush Administration is dragging its feet. We approved 183-million dollars in LIHEAP in December but the president’s only released 100-million dollars of those funds.” Harkin says the additional money is needed to help low-income families and senior citizens afford heat for their homes.
Harkin says “Right now we’re facing in Iowa the prospect that 10-thousand households that are expected to apply for assistance would go without support this winter.” He says figures from the Department of Energy show LIHEAP grants this winter will only pay for 29-percent of a household’s natural gas heating bill, down from 69-percent four years ago. Four of five Midwestern homes use natural gas for heat.
Harkin says we’ve been fortunate in Iowa to have a very mild January but December was one of the coldest on record and those bills are coming due. In 2004, states assisted more than four-million households through LIHEAP, including 85-thousand Iowa households. A study finds 73-percent of LIHEAP recipients report they have reduced spending on household necessities because they did not have enough money for their energy bills.