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LIHEAP Funds OK'd for Energy Costs

$845 million to help low-income households

As winter's coldest months close in, the government today released more than $845 million in home heating cost subsidies to help older adults and low-income residents stay warm in their homes.

Funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was sliced from $4.7 billion last year to $2.57 billion for 2012, cutting off thousands of people from receiving home heating aid at a time when requests for assistance reached unprecedented levels.

See also: Affordable Utilities Now!

The $845 million in block grant funds released today by the Department of Health and Human Services is in addition to $1.7 billion released to states since October 2011. The new funds bring the total to 2.581 billion in LIHEAP block funds for fiscal year 2012.

"Even as the economy shows signs of improvement, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet," George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families, said in a statement.

"We are making funds available today to help vulnerable families and seniors pay their heating bills and stay warm during this holiday season and into early 2012."

Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced legislation that would restore last year's funding levels — the Senate may take it up in January. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said they will do everything they can to make sure no American goes cold this winter.

They noted that heating oil prices are about one-third higher in inflation-adjusted terms than when the assistance program started some 30 years ago.

"This is a program that can make the difference between life and death," Snowe said.

Next: More households need help. >>

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