WASHINGTON, DC [04/09/20] – Today Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) led 75 of their colleagues in calling for increased federal funding to help low-income families pay for heating, cooling, and water bills during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Members requested a minimum of $4.3 billion in supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next COVID-19 relief package. They also called for similar assistance to help cover drinking water and wastewater utility costs.
“No one should be forced to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food,” the Members wrote. “As our constituents face the economic consequences of COVID-19, this is becoming a reality for far too many working families… In a typical year, LIHEAP serves only a fraction of the households eligible for assistance. Many more households will need and likely qualify for assistance in the coming weeks and months.”
The Members noted that LIHEAP is an important service for heating and cooling energy costs, but during this pandemic families will also need help with all of their utility bills. They called for the next relief package to provide assistance for drinking water and wastewater utility costs, especially important with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stressing the need for handwashing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Now more than ever access to water and wastewater services is critical to protecting our communities,” the Members wrote. “During this national emergency, low-income households and households otherwise affected by the economic consequences of this outbreak need a proven mechanism like LIHEAP to assist with drinking water and wastewater services.”
Bonamici is Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, which has partial jurisdiction over LIHEAP. The following members of Congress signed the letter along with Tlaib, Bonamici, and Dingell: Alma S. Adams Ph.D. (NC-12), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE At-Large), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Kathy Castor (FL-14), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Jim Costa (CA-16), Joe Courtney (CT-02), TJ Cox (CA-21), Jason Crow (CO-06), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), William R. Keating (MA-09), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Ron Kind (WI-03), Peter T. King (NY-02), Ann McLane Kuster( NH-02), Rick Larsen (WA-02), John B. Larson (CT-01), Al Lawson (FL-05), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Richard E. Neal (MA-01), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC – At Large), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Linda T. Sanchez (CA-38), John P. Sarbanes (MD-03), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Kim Schrier M.D. (WA-08), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Adam Smith (WA-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Don Young (AK At-Large).
The full letter can be viewed here and below.
April 8, 2020
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Speaker of the House Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives U.S House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,
As you craft the next package of relief measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we respectfully request that you provide no less than $4,300,000,000 in supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). We also urge you to include additional authority and funds to allow assistance similar to LIHEAP to be provided to benefit households economically affected by COVID-19 with drinking water and wastewater services during this national emergency.
No one should be forced to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food. As our constituents face the economic consequences of COVID-19, this is becoming a reality for far too many working families. In our efforts to respond to the pandemic, we must make the health and well-being of our most vulnerable communities a top priority. We appreciate your work to secure $900 million for LIHEAP in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, but much more is needed to meet the growing need for assistance. In a typical year, LIHEAP serves only a fraction of the households eligible for assistance. Many more households will need and likely qualify for assistance in the coming weeks and months.
Workers are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and it is our responsibility to make sure they can access necessary wraparound services. Last month nearly ten million workers filed unemployment claims in a two-week period, surpassing previous records. This represents just the first wave of the economic consequences from COVID-19. The Economic Policy Institute recently forecasted that nearly 20 million workers will be laid off or furloughed by July 2020. We are expecting that more claims will be filed in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, as individuals comply with stay at home orders across the country during the pandemic, they will likely be using more electricity and heat or air conditioning to keep their homes habitable. Increased funding for LIHEAP would provide tangible assistance to families who are struggling to pay their bills.
Low-income households, especially in the face of this crisis, need help with all of their utility bills. LIHEAP is an important service for energy costs, but we urge you to include language in the next response package to provide similar assistance for drinking water and wastewater utility costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stressed the importance of handwashing to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Now more than ever access to water and wastewater services is critical to protecting our communities. During this national emergency, low-income households and households otherwise affected by the economic consequences of this outbreak need a proven mechanism like LIHEAP to assist with drinking water and wastewater services.
Low-income families and households and those more recently affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are struggling, and Congress must provide the resources to access basic necessities during this pandemic. With meaningful investments, we can expand access to LIHEAP for millions of families and provide significant relief as they cope with the consequences of COVID-19. Thank you for your attention to these critical issues. We look forward to continuing to work with you to make funding for LIHEAP a priority.