POLICY POSITION IN SUPPORT OF REFORMING THE FEDERAL LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP)
The Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has sought to help impoverished Americans shoulder home heating and cooling costs for nearly two decades. Particularly in the South, LIHEAP has been only partially successful and now warrants thoughtful reform. Energy costs consume a disproportionate share of impoverished residents’ income within the member states of the Southern Legislative Conference, which include 43 percent of America’s low-income households. Fewer than 20 percent of these are supported by LIHEAP as it is now configured. While the existing program purports to be noble in purpose, throughout America’s middle and Southern latitudes, LIHEAP has been recognized to be insufficient in its current form. Other entities have addressed this as well:
- The Southern Governors’ Association and the 16-state Southern States Energy Board unanimously endorsed LIHEAP formula reform and increased funding; and
- President Bush’s Fiscal 2003 Budget acknowledges LIHEAP’s formula is flawed and solicits proposals to better serve those in need.
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments urges Congress to adjust the existing program’s hold-harmless trigger mechanism from $1.975 billion to $1.0 billion. This reform fundamentally improves our ability to reach and serve today’s residents in need. LIHEAP reform of the hold-harmless trigger would guide assistance using the most current population, energy-consumption and price information, rather than outdated statistics when the program was formulated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This highly-targeted reform would substantially improve our ability to reach residents in greatest need, while preserving the underlying integrity of the existing program.
Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana - August 8, 2002