Cooling costs, inflation putting pressure on energy assistance

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Federal energy assistance for low-income households ballooned during the COVID-19 pandemic to $8 billion, but with funding for heating and cooling aid forecast to return to normal levels and energy prices doubling in the last year advocates are calling on President Joe Biden to boost support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Former Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and leaders with Action for Boston Community Development and other organizations signed a letter to Biden Wednesday calling on him to increase funding for LIHEAP to $10 billion. Kennedy, whose father founded Citizens Energy to support low-income households, said most households pay about 5 percent of their budget on energy costs, but for low-income families the expense of heating and cooling their homes can climb to 40 percent.

While money from the American Rescue Plan Act was used to boost LIHEAP funding to $8 billion last year, the budget for the federal assistance program is set to return to $4 billion in fiscal 2023 despite the price of home heating oil doubling in the past year to over $5 a gallon.

“Please, Mr. President, please boost funding for LIHEAP so no one is left out in the cold,” Kennedy said, standing outside the Roxbury home of LIHEAP recipient Phillip Mayo.