3. POLICY POSITION IN SUPPORT OF REFORMING THE FEDERAL LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LIHEAP)
The Southern Legislative Conference, Southern Governors’ Association (SGA) and Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) have a longstanding shared interest in the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP was created to assist low-income households in meeting their home energy needs, and to protect the health and safety of our citizens living throughout the South. LIHEAP is insufficiently funded, now reaching only15 percent of eligible Americans with assistance. LIHEAP funds are distributed utilizing an outdated formula that is weighted toward cold weather, and places undue emphasis upon heating.
Deaths and injuries from extreme hot weather are far greater than loss of life and injuries from extreme cold, with heat resulting in almost 20 times more deaths than extreme cold between1998 and 2000. Home cooling protects against heat-related deaths and injuries, yet this safeguard is too often unaffordable because the energy burden of cooling the homes of our neediest eligible citizens approaches 30 percent of their total household income.
LIHEAP’s outdated formula is utilized when the program’s national appropriations are below $1.975 billion and relies upon population, energy consumption and price statistics from the 1930s to the early 1980s.
A better methodology exists within LIHEAP’s ‘New’ formula, which guides the distribution of funds when federal appropriations exceed $1.975 billion. The ‘New’ formula utilizes the latest state-specific population, income and energy price statistics, and accommodates price anomalies that the outdated formula ignores. Federal LIHEAP appropriations have averaged $1.5 billion over the last 23 years. The current $1.975 billion trigger is almost never reached and, as a result, the ‘New’ formula has been activated only twice since the program was created. LIHEAP can be re-energized to provide equitable funding for Southern states by either significantly increasing funding and/or realistically adjusting the program’s trigger point to activate the ‘New’ formula. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), LIHEAP’s companion program, is designed to enable eligible households to improve the long-term energy efficiency of their housing.
The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments (CSG) joins SGA, the SSEB and others in urging Congress and the President to pursue improvements to ensure today’s neediest, eligible Americans are truly helped to meet their home energy needs by:
- Significantly increasing LIHEAP appropriations to ensure continuous use of the “New” formula instead of the outdated formula that is biased toward cold weather states;
- Reforming the trigger point or altering the formula in order to activate a more equitable distribution mechanism; and
- Increasing funding for LIHEAP’s companion federal Weatherization Assistance Program in order to permanently cut energy consumption, program costs and pollution alike, and achieve significant long-term structural reform and energy efficiencies.
Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, August 12, 2003, Fort Worth, Texas.