Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Kamala Harris
Dear Senators Feinstein and Harris,
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are writing to urge Congress to provide an additional $4.3 billion of funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Now more than ever, we need our leaders in Washington to step up and help Californians.
On March 27, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, that included $900 million for LIHEAP to help low-income households pay their utility bills during the crisis. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), the primary educational and policy organization for the state directors of the LIHEAP program, estimates the $900 million will help approximately three million families.
However, State LIHEAP directors urgently need an additional funding of $4.3 billion to help the millions more households that continue to suffer economic hardships from the pandemic. NAEDA also found that the additional funds will allow LIHEAP to support nearly 11.2 million households. This NAEDA estimate demonstrates that the additional $1.5 billion included in the latest pandemic relief package known as the HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives, is not adequate.
Also, NEADA’s estimate of need assumes an average grant of $325 to cover home energy costs for four months, plus $300 to provide window or room air conditioners for elderly and medically vulnerable households to ensure their houses stay at a safe temperature while they are sheltering in place.
The additional $4.3 billion for LIHEAP, is especially critical for California, because according to the latest unemployment data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, California’s unemployment rate is 15.5% — making this one of the most extreme time periods of economic uncertainty in our state. In fact, on June 11th, the State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) reported: “the overall total of claims processed since the COVID-19 impact began in mid-March is now over 6 million and $26.2 billion in benefits have been paid to workers in need.”
Congress must also consider that California’s social safety net is also at risk. According to a recent statement by Governor Gavin Newsom, our state’s upcoming fiscal year budget is facing a shortfall in excess of $50 billion dollars.
Finally, as the summer months heat up demand for electricity will predictably rise as residents use more power to cool their homes. We must not risk a situation where millions of Californians are stuck at home due to the pandemic, and cannot afford to use their air conditioning. This would create health risks, especially for seniors and other vulnerable members of our society who fear going outside due to the pandemic.
We look forward to working closely with you on this important matter.
About CCEDA: CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION CCEDA serves as a clearinghouse for information and action that advances the field of community economic development through training and continuing education, technical assistance, and advocacy on public policy. All CCEDA’s activities serve our membership — organizations actively engaged in revitalizing California’s neighborhoods, including resident driven community development corporations, local governments, community action agencies and faith based institutions. CCEDA members produce results through a full range of community building strategies including real estate development-housing, retail and commercial-business assistance and lending, social services, and job training and creation.