Biden spending $4.5 billion to help lower home heating costs
The Biden administration has said it is making $4.5 billion available through a low-income home energy assistance program to help with heating costs heading into what is expected to be a brutal winter.
Spending for the program is significantly higher than the typical annual funding of about $3.5 billion, but far below the $8 billion the administration and congressional Democrats delivered last winter as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package.
The money spent last year was by far the largest appropriation in a single year since the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program was established in 1981.
The money will be provided to state, local and tribal governments to help more than 5 million families pay heating and utility bill costs, and can also be used to make home energy repairs.
By helping families improve energy efficiency, “we are also lowering energy bills, bringing down household costs, creating jobs and fighting the climate crisis,” Vice President Kamala Harris told a crowd at a union hall in Boston.
In New England, one of the major utilities has already announced a 60 percent price hike for electricity this winter.
Utilities are also seeking price hikes for natural gas and home heating oil, citing the war in Ukraine and inflation. The top executive of Eversource Energy, New England’s largest energy provider, warned Biden last week that the region may not have enough power if a severe cold spell hits this winter.
The announcement of heating assistance comes in the waning days before the Nov. 8 elections that will determine which party controls Congress. Democrats are trying to contrast their efforts to help middle and low-income people through the $1 trillion infrastructure law and other legislative measures with Republican suggestions they would use the debt limit as leverage for cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits and other federal programs.
Across the country, families are looking to the winter with dread as energy costs soar and fuel supplies tighten. The LIHEAP program served more than 5.3 million households last year, and a similar number are expected to participate this year.
The Energy Department is projecting sharp price increases for home heating compared with last winter. Some worry that heating assistance programs will not be able to make up the difference for struggling families.