07.26.08

On The Warm In Winter And Cool In Summer Act Senate Floor

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I rise in support of S. 3186, the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act. As an original cosponsor of this important legislation that nearly doubles funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, I urge my colleagues to support the motion to invoke cloture. 

While we are currently in the middle of summer, every Vermonter knows that winter isn't far off. Families in cold-weather States, like Vermont, who were able to pay this past winter's bill, are already preparing for next winter and they are finding the costs of home heating to be out of reach. 

In its most recent ``Short-Term Energy Outlook,'' the Department of Energy predicted that the cost of home heating oil will increase more than 41 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008. This increase comes on top of the 162-percent increase in heating oil prices that has occurred since President Bush took office. 

Many of our neediest neighbors will need Federal and State assistance in order to fill their fuel tanks. There is currently $120 million in LIHEAP emergency funds that Congress has appropriated and the President could release tomorrow. Unfortunately, so far he has refused to do so. 

I have passed an amendment that would require the President to release the $120 million in emergency LIHEAP funding. Yet clearly more funding is needed. 

The skyrocketing price of home heating oil, propane, kerosene, natural gas and electricity is stretching the household budgets of millions of families with children, senior citizens on fixed incomes and persons with disabilities beyond the breaking point. 

More LIHEAP assistance is urgently needed. This legislation will provide an additional $2.5 billion for LIHEAP. With the current oil prices, the average LIHEAP grant only pays for 18 percent of the total cost of heating a home with heating oil in the winter; 21 percent of residential propane costs; 41 percent of natural gas costs; and 43 percent of electricity costs. 

This legislation is a moral imperative. People without adequate heat are vulnerable to illness. And people struggling to pay the heating bills may be tempted to skimp on medicines and even food. No one should have to choose between heating and eating. 

I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join us in supporting this bill immediately and the President will sign it as soon as possible.

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