Monday, May 23, 2011

LIHEAP: A Growth in Need and a Reduction in Funding

The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists vulnerable families in paying their home heating and cooling bills. Low-income households, defined as those with incomes less than 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold, may apply for funds for heating or cool­ing expenses, crisis intervention to prevent energy-related emergencies such as utility shutoffs, or weatherization and energy-related home repairs. However, the FY 2012 budget proposes cutting nearly half of the program’s funding ($2.5 billion of the $5.1 billion). A new report by the Carsey Institute, Energy Assistance Programs Benefitted 48 Percent More Households During Recession: Proposed Cuts Threaten Vulnerable Families, (using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey’s (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement) found that more American families are turning to federal assistance to heat their homes during the winter, with many more families eligible but not taking advantage of the program. Some highlights of the report include:

  • Between the 2007 and 2010 surveys, 48 percent more households reported receiving winter energy assistance. Many more families are eligible than receive assistance.
  • In winter 2009/2010, only 11 percent of income-eligible households received support.
  • Significantly more households in the severe winter regions of the Northeast and Midwest receive assistance than in the warmer regions of the South and West.
  • Households headed by a single parent rely heavily on energy assistance, particularly in rural areas where rates of receipt are greater than 20 percent.
  • Poor households are more likely to receive energy assistance than other low-income households, suggesting that the neediest households are being reached.
  • The highest rates of energy assistance are in rural areas, particularly in the rural Northeast and Midwest. In the 2009/2010 winter, New Englanders received the highest average benefit, at $747.

For more information on strategies to promote family economic success, visit Policy for Results.