U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, urging him to boost funding for a federal program that helps low-income Americans pay their heating and cooling bills.
Under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, families living at 135 percent of the poverty line — about $26,700 annual income for a family of three — are eligible for help paying for home energy bills and weatherization.
But federal funding for the program has dropped by $1.7 billion since 2010, and the number of households receiving aid is down 18 percent, according to the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance, a nonprofit advocacy group.
In his letter to the White House, the Kansas City Democrat called the program “critical.” Cleaver asked Obama to include $4.7 billion for the program in his next budget. The omnibus federal spending bill that passed late last year allocated $3.39 billion.
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“Increased heating costs during extreme winter months can place severe strains on household budgets, leading families to make tradeoffs between energy, food or medicine,” Cleaver wrote.
Only about 146,000 of the nearly half million households in Missouri eligible for the program received assistance last year. Eighteen percent of the recipients in Missouri are elderly, 40 percent are disabled and 22 percent live in households with small children.
Missouri received $70 million in funds from the program for fiscal year 2014, down from $95 million in 2010.