WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that he will push an amendment instructing budget conferees to include $2.92 billion for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the final budget reconciliation bill. This would provide a $24 million boost for LIHEAP funding in Iowa. LIHEAP helps eligible low-income families, the disabled, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes receive relief from their high home energy costs.

“We are facing a real crisis in Iowa and across the nation. With higher energy costs this winter, many Iowa families are worried about how they will pay their heating bills,” said Harkin. “LIHEAP provides a vital safety net for our nation’s low-income households and without it, many Iowans face the impossible choice between paying their home energy bills or other needs like prescription drugs, housing, and food.”

In the Midwest, four out of five homes are heated by natural gas. Although the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has predicted that some households could see their fuel bills rise by nearly 50 percent this winter; Congressional Republicans have provided less than half of the funding authorized for LIHEAP in FY2006. The current rise in energy prices, along with energy debt remaining from last winter, are leading to increased disconnections among consumers as the winter heating season begins. Increased funding is needed to help low-income families and seniors meet the demands of increasing energy prices and ensure they can afford heat for their homes.

Harkin has held roundtables on LIHEAP in eastern and northwest Iowa where he learned that applications for home heating assistance have skyrocketed by 50 percent this year. According to the Hawkeye Area Community Assistance Program (HACAP) in southeast Iowa, LIHEAP funds are likely to run out in mid-January, one of the coldest months of the year.

Last year, states served more than four million households with LIHEAP assistance, including 85,000 Iowa households In Iowa last year, the state surveyed households receiving LIHEAP and found that 21 percent reported going without needed medical care and/or prescription drugs and 12 percent reported going without food in order to pay their heating bill.

The LIHEAP program is administered by local community action agencies in each county. Information on applying for the LIHEAP program is located online at http://www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA/.