03.27.17

Remarks of Senator Patrick Leahy Press Conference on President Trump’s Call to Eliminate America’s Social Safety Net

Thank you Jan for that kind introduction, and for having us here today.

Over the years, I have heard from many Vermonters whose lives have been made stronger by the dedicated teams at CVOEO and our other 4 community action agencies.  Their staffs have long been committed to offering program participants a solid foundation for family success.

While the economy does continue to improve, this is not the case for many families.  With the ever increasing food, transportation and housing costs, I do not have to tell you that family budgets are strained.  Low income families rely on our CAPs for food and housing assistance, financial planning tools and - to highlight why we are here today - home heating and  weatherization.

Last week, President Trump proposed in his FY18 budget the elimination of the Community Service Block Grant, LIHEAP and Weatherization Programs.

This proposal is appallingly unbalanced, it is out of touch, and it is shortsighted.  

We have made progress in recent years in helping families.  Our poverty rate has started to go back down since the Recession, in no small part to these programs and the multitude of services provided to one family at a time.  But, if Congress chooses to honor the President’s budget proposal, there is not doubt that we will see more families go the other way – back into poverty.

LIHEAP and Weatherization services ensure that families they do not have to choose between food and heat.  It ensures that families stay safe from harmful asbestos that may be in the walls of their old Vermont farm house, or their inefficient mobile home. 

We are a great nation, and we are also a good nation.

We are not a “great” nation if we eliminate heating assistance for these vulnerable households that receive LIHEAP, 21,000 of which have been digging out from an historic snow storm here at home.  And, in states like ours, home heating is a life-and-death matter.

I want all in the Senate to understand that this is not only a matter for us in New England. This home energy crisis that we will be in without this program will go far beyond the Northeast. People in other parts of the country are struggling to pay for the skyrocketing price of electricity, which has tripled in years past.  This means that the elderly, and the disabled trying to survive in 100 degree temperatures too will face a major health crisis if their electricity is shut off. 

I am calling on the Senate and the House to show compassion and commonsense in keeping these programs working.  To see the faces behind these cuts, and show that vulnerable communities should never be at the whim of politically driven priorities. 

We have to do much more. I hope we begin by recognizing the crisis so many families will face in this country without the help of people like the ones here with me today. Without them, families will go cold next winter. They will choose not to eat so they can heat their homes. They will deny themselves health care and miss rent payments so that they can stay warm.  So that they can stay alive. We can do much better.  America can do better.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will insist that we do, and hope that the Congress will do the same.

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