President Obama's proposed budget cuts to the (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) LIHEAP may be a big blow to the millions of households who depend on it for heating assistance this winter.
Under Obama's proposal, the program's funding will be cut from a little over $5 billion to just $2.5 billion.
Predictably, critics (mostly Democrat politicians) lashed out at what they believe is a cruel and unfair squeeze on the poor, especially in light of the cold weather this year and the persistent economic difficulties of the lower class in the post-Great Recession period.
Below are some of the reactions:
-In the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens, said Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
-Families’ heating bills have been piling up, as well, and so have the record number of people who are turning to LIHEAP to help them get through the winter,” said Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Cutting off funds for this program now means that millions of families could have their heating cut off. These families would be forced to decide once again between heating and eating, said Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
LIHEAP is important and critical to many low-income constituents of mine, and all over Texas, who face extreme summer temperatures and cold temperatures. I welcome you to come to Houston any time between May 1 and the end of September and see why we need cooling assistance, said Representative Gene Green of Texas.
I don’t think we should balance the budget on the backs of seniors who cannot afford the rising costs of heating their home, said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Heat in the winter is not a ‘consumer choice.’ It is not a household budget option. Heat in the winter in Vermont is a basic necessity, said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
This is definitely not the time to make it harder for low-income families to heat their homes, said Representatives Chellie Pingree of Maine.
-It's going to cut into the needs of people who already find themselves needing more than they have so that's going to have a big blow to them, said Willis Crosby Jr., president and CEO of SHARE, a nonprofit anti-poverty agency in South Carolina.
Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same. So what we've said is let's go back to a more sustainable level. If it turns out that, once again, you see a huge energy spike, then we can revisit it, but let's not just assume because it's at a $5 billion level that each year we're going to sustain it at a $5 billion level regardless of what's happening on the energy front, said President Obama, in response to criticisms.