Washington, D.C. – The Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) on Monday released home energy heating funds via block grant funding to the states in a Fiscal Year 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR) approval.
Receiving more than $20.7 million in funding, Rhode Island’s most vulnerable citizens will get help with heating fuel assistance. Funded through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), HHS released a total of $2.9 billion in regular block grant funding, representing 90 percent of what was funded in FY 2013.
“We are still waiting on the final appropriations funding level that will be provided once Congress finishes their budget conference,” said Brandon Avila, spokesman for the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance in a release yesterday. “The Campaign and its supporters in Congress have called for at least $4.7 billion earlier this year. So far, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their bill with $3.6 billion, an increase over the $3.25 billion that was provided last year after the sequestration reduction.”
Bipartisan effort heats homes
Senator Jack Reed in a bi-partisan campaign with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), worked diligently over the last few months to include LIHEAP funding language in the CR, get it approved and released to states for consumption in anticipation of the increased need in cold-weather months.
Due to a 30 percent reduction in funding since 2010 and increase in eligible recipients, Reed and Collins requested that Congress fund LIHEAP at the previous FY2012 level of $3.47 billion. A release from Reed on Monday noted that it is unfortunate that LIHEAP funding is subject to “automatic, across the board sequestration cuts.”
“I am pleased the Obama Administration is releasing this vital heating assistance. LIHEAP helps families in need deal with heating and financial challenges during the cold winter months. With winter approaching it is critical to speed this assistance to seniors and low-income families in time to help with their heating bills,” said Reed.
New England States Initial CR Funding
Initial CR Release
Tribal Set-Aside Award
Total Initial Release
|Rhode Island||$ 20,673,208||$58,743||$ 20,731,951|
|Connecticut||$ 67,584,301||0||$ 67,584,301|
|New Hampshire||$22,151,596||0||$ 22,151,596|
A complete list of LIHEAP CR release funding can be found here.
United Way 2-1-1 assistance calls grown in volume
The United Way, 2-1-1 assistance line has seen a steady stream of call volume related to heating and utility assistance, similar to numbers reported in 2012, according to information furnished on Tuesday. Call volume for 2012, encompassing all available heating programs, including LIHEAP, Keep the Heat On, and the non-profit’s referrals to churches and utility companies was reported at 50,052 annually. The 2012 number was a 10 percent increase over 2011 volume at a monthly average of 4,171 calls.
The 2013 volume reported for the period was 41,639 calls at a monthly average of 4,164 requests for assistance. The 2013 numbers are on par with the 2012 volume,and has the potential for further increase. according to information provided by Michael Cerio, spokesperson for United Way 2-1-1.
“Since its inception in 2007, United Way 2-1-1 in Rhode Island has handled more than 1 million calls for help; establishing itself as a vital component of the state’s safety-net,” said Anthony Maione, president & CEO, United Way of Rhode Island. “2-1-1 is a free, confidential helpline available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to help individuals and families during difficult times. Whether someone needs financial assistance for heat or electricity, care for an aging parent, help finding food for their family, or to connect with other community-based services, 2-1-1 can help.”
Where to go for help
United Way 2-1-1 can be reached by dialing 211. For an online list of 2-1-1 services, click here.
Individuals in need of LIHEAP applications should contact their local Community Action Agency (CAP). For a list of Rhode Island CAPs click here.