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2007 Policy Positions
of the Southern Legislative Conference

POLICY POSITION REGARDING
THE LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM


BACKGROUND

The U.S. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides vital, life-saving, federally funded, state-administered grants to help qualified low-income families heat and cool their homes.  LIHEAP enables these families to live with dignity and conserves resources by avoiding reliance upon more costly programs.  Every SLC state has significant numbers of eligible households.  The program prioritizes income-limited seniors, disabled Americans and/or children less than six years of age.   

Despite careful management, our states’ ability to reach at-risk citizens is severely constrained whenever federal appropriations for LIHEAP formula grants are below $2 billion.  For the first time in more than two decades, during federal fiscal year 2006, LIHEAP was able to reach substantially more families in SLC-member states.  This occurred because Congress and the president improved federal LIHEAP appropriations for formula-driven (non-discretionary) grants.  Their action activated a too-long dormant distribution mechanism, enacted in 1984, which was specifically designed to help warm-weather and high population growth states.  The SLC has long championed permanently activating LIHEAP’s ‘1984’ formula, which neither harms nor diminishes other states’ grants.  This action would, however enable all warm-weather and growth states to better reach long-imperiled citizens who are at risk.     

It is time for America’s premier energy assistance program to become the truly national initiative it was statutorily designed to be.  It is inappropriate for LIHEAP to devolve to a vestigial program whenever formula grant appropriations are below roughly $2 billion. 

RECOMMENDATION

The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments urges the United States Congress and the president to:

  • Ensure that any new current-year LIHEAP appropriations above the nearly $2 billion historically devoted to formula grants are equally distributed between formula and discretionary grants, as was done in FFY 2006;
  • Activate permanently LIHEAP’s ‘1984’ distribution mechanism by annually enacting appropriations well in excess of the $1.975 billion trigger; and
  • Ensure that LIHEAP appropriations do not fall below their FFY 2006 level.

Further, the Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments endorses the use of proactive measures to remedy this 20-year-old delay in proper and equitable funding for all states and forwards its position to the president of the United States and the secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, July 17, 2007, Williamsburg, Virginia.

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