On July 5, 2017 a public hearing was held at the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia to discuss the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The hearing was to discuss proposed changes to the existing plan, including unsafe cutbacks, from the PA Department of Human Services (DHS).
LIHEAP benefits PA recipients by providing federal grant money for to cover heating bills. The loss of heat is especially dangerous to the elderly and families with small children – a point number crunchers at the federal government seemingly take for granted.
A number of groups businesses were represented during the hearing, as well as individual citizens, to provide testimonies in favor of the program. Two of the groups in attendance were the CLS (Community Legal Services of Philadelphia), and the ECA (Energy Coordinating Agency). Both of whom helped reach out to members of the community to let them know of the hearing, which was held immediately after a holiday, making it extremely difficult for people to attend during an historically typical week for vacations.
- DHS should open LIHEAP no later than November 1st in order to avoid utility shut-offs before the winter months and to prevent unnecessary delays for home-heating repairs.
- DHS should close LIHEAP no earlier than April 1st.
- DHS should not reduce Cash and Crisis grant amounts.
- The State confirmed the DHS would open LIHEAP no later than November 1st. This maintains an important date to ensure that households have funding for home heating system repairs before the harsh winter weather.
- DHS has not issued an update to closing LIHEAP on April 1st – when utility companies widely shut off people’s services.
- DHS has not issued an update to the reduction of proposed State cuts that would affect the grant amounts.
Companies in attendance, such as PECO (formerly Philadelphia Electric Company) and PGW (Philadelphia Gas Works), provided testimonies on the dangers and community issues regarding these cuts. Each suggesting the DHS reconsider any changes to the program.
Federal Government Proposes Eliminating LIHEAP
On March 16, President Trump released his proposed fiscal year 2018 federal budget. With large numbers of low-income families seeking assistance this year, the Trump administration has recommended eliminating spending on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). That represents a $3.9 billion decrease from the fiscal year 2016 Continuing Resolution levels.
The President’s budget has since been sent to Congress for approval. There has been no resolution made to date regarding LIHEAP.
At the State level in Pennsylvania, opposition to LIHEAP cuts are strong, even showing bi-partisan support.