In full transparency, the following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey, who was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat. (file photo) SOURCE publishes press release from elected leaders as a community service.
WASHINGTON DC – As American households struggle to afford high home heating costs this winter, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) this week reintroduced the Heating and Cooling Relief Act to invest in and expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to ensure people, especially underserved families and individuals, receive the financial assistance they need to stay warm throughout the winter and cool throughout the summer. The legislation also ensures that states can leverage LIHEAP funding to invest in climate adaptation, including a transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, a vital step for lowering energy costs for the long term and combatting the extreme weather that results from climate change.
“American families have been struggling to pay for their energy bills as a result of the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising fossil fuel prices brought on by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, these circumstances have made it even harder for Massachusetts families to afford to heat their homes this winter,” said Senator Markey. “As Congressman Bowman and I reintroduce our Heating and Cooling Relief Act, the need to bolster LIHEAP and ensure that home energy funding will be available to all of those who need it could not be clearer. This important legislation would provide LIHEAP funding to millions more Americans and help the program improve its outreach efforts and serve all eligible households. It also takes steps to reduce the energy burdens of LIHEAP recipients and cut down our fossil fuel use by increasing investments in weatherization. The Heating and Cooling Relief Act is the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families, and support a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption.”
“Utilities are a fundamental human right, and no one should be living in energy poverty,” said Congressman Bowman. “Senator Markey and I are working toward an America that respects our collective humanity and our Heating and Cooling Relief Act makes it so that every family can afford their energy bills. This is a racial and economic justice issue, with Black, Latino and Indigenous households all experiencing disproportionately high energy burdens. The lack of energy assistance is also a public health crisis, with high energy burdens associated with a greater risk for respiratory diseases and heat strokes. In my district, constituents call us daily asking for help with their heating bills and it is clear that federal action is needed. I am proud to have a partner in Senator Markey as we take on this fight.”
Cosponsors of this legislation in the Senate include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Specifically, the Heating and Cooling Relief Act would:
- Increase annual funding for LIHEAP to $40 billion and expands eligibility to ensure that no household pays more than 3 percent of its annual income on energy costs;
- Minimize the barriers to administering and applying LIHEAP by allowing households to self-attest to eligibility criteria; increasing the administrative cap for outreach, technological, and staffing purposes; and ensuring LIHEAP coordinators are paid at least a living wage;
- Protect consumers by ensuring that no eligible household has its utilities shutoff or pays late fees, that every household receiving funds can have its utility debt cleared, and that utility companies set up discounted payment plans to support consumers;
- Ensure states can use LIHEAP to address climate adaptation by increasing funding for cooling assistance and ensuring households can access utility assistance during major disasters; and
- Increase funding made available for weatherization through LIHEAP, and establish a new Just Transition Grant for states and localities to help reduce energy burdens for LIHEAP-eligible households and promote renewable energy usage.
Organizations that have endorsed the Heating and Cooling Relief Act include: WE ACT for Environmental Justice, National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), National Housing Law Project, Public Citizen, Sunrise Movement, Evergreen Action, Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), Sierra Club, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), Food and Water Watch, Rocky Mountain Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Ecological Justice Initiative, Elevate, Dandelion Energy, Building Electrification Institute, Rewiring America, Association for Energy Affordability, Sustainable Westchester, New York Lawyers for Public Interest, Bloc Power, NY Geothermal Energy Organization, and NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP), NY Renews, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, National Homelessness Law Center, Groundswell, and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Last May, Senator Markey introduced the Strategic reserve, Appliance, Vehicle, and Energy efficiency for Consumers Act – or the SAVE Consumers Act (S. 3815)—to provide short-term relief to the American people by restoring the president’s ability to set energy efficiency targets for states during an energy supply emergency.
It also sought to provide relief to Americans by advancing the near-term sale of millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—an action that the Biden administration subsequently followed by releasing up to 180 million barrels into the market.
Senator Markey also called on the Biden administration to take action to lower energy costs for New Englanders as the winter season approached and Americans continued to face high energy costs.