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Last updated: January 14. 2014 3:28PM - 1680 Views
JON O’CONNELL joconnell@civitasmedia.com



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When it comes to funding home-heating assistance programs, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says cut elsewhere.


Though the state Department of Public Welfare has approved about 25 percent more cash-assistance applications in the state than last year, Casey, D-Scranton, said the average benefit is much lower.


As home-heating costs rise each year, individual grants approved have declined by about $100 per household since 2010, with federal funding to the program down by about 30 percent in recent years, Casey said. This year’s budget is already about $95 million short of last year’s. The 2013 appropriation was about $3.02 billion.


Casey is calling for President Barack Obama to preserve the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) when he drafts his 2015 budget proposal and set aside no less than $4.7 billion for the program.


In a letter he’s drafted to the president, Casey reminds the president that 90 percent of LIHEAP recipients have at least one child in the home and seniors use LIHEAP money more than any other assistance to keep the heat on in the winter.


Out of 1.5 million state households eligible for assistance, current funding will cover only about 384,000 of them, Casey said.


“Basically,we’re only able to help one-fourth of those eligible,” Casey said. “That alone should be an indictment of Washington. Access to affordable home energy is not a luxury; it is a matter of health and safety.”


Heat assistance is not a matter to debate in Washington, rather it is a human issue that deserves proper consideration, he said.


“If you’re going to cut any program substantially, you should have an exhaustive analysis of the effects to people,” Casey said. “Reducing LIHEAP substantially is not a balanced approach.”


There is no indication the president will slash LIHEAP funding, he said.


“I want to make sure we’re out ahead of this,” Casey said. “I want to make sure we’re aware of the gravity of the problem, especially with the winter we’ve had over the last 48 hours.”


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