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Politics & Government

Senators Turn Up Heat on President Over LIHEAP

In the midst of issues surrounding the fiscal cliff, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has joined a bipartisan effort urging President Obama to keep funding for heating assistance for the poor a top priority when considering budget cuts.   40 senators have submitted a letter to the administration requesting Mr. Obama include $4.7 billion in the 2014 fiscal year budget.

Senator Casey said LIHEAP, a program that provides assistance to low-income households, generates $1.13 in economic activity for every dollar invested. “There’s a double benefit, not just the obvious benefit to a family, but also the economic impact that it has on the economy overall,” Casey said.

According to LIHEAP’s breakdown of individual states, 626,969 Pennsylvania households received financial assistance in 2011, up from 547,302 two years earlier. However, Pennsylvania’s allotment of the overall budget decreased from $308 million in 2009 to $294.5 million in 2011.

Casey said expenses are expected to go up this year while LIHEAP funding continues to decrease. “Household expenditures are expected to increase 19 percent for heating oil, 15 percent for natural gas, and LIHEAP funding has declined some 32 percent in recent years while the number of eligible households continues to far exceed those receiving assistance,” Casey said.

Casey said he has already voted for more than one trillion dollars in cuts, but more need to be made. “We have to make cuts that are smart and get us to a balanced, bipartisan approach when it comes to the budget and these difficult fiscal issues that we have, and we also have to make sure that we take steps to protect a vulnerable people,” Casey said.

LIHEAP awarded Pennsylvania $200 million in 2012. When preparing the 2013 fiscal budget, President Obama suggested reducing the authorized $5.1 billion to $3 billion.

The fiscal cliff, an automatic end to George W. Bush administration tax cuts plus mandatory spending cuts, is set to go into effect January 1.