"Mr. President, the LIHEAP program exists to help low-income
families to pay their home energy bills and is not specific to the
type of fuel that they use," Blagojevich wrote in a letter to Bush.
"So, the assistance provided under LIHEAP should not single out only
one type of fuel but should provide relief to all families in need."
According to the formula created for the additional funds, states
will receive a portion of these funds only if they have satisfied
two criteria: (a) 15 percent or more of their low-income households
use fuel oil for heat; and (b) below-average temperatures of less
than 47 degrees for the six-month period ending March 31, 2006. This
formula excludes people from Midwestern states who rely on natural
gas to heat their homes, despite the fact that Midwestern winters
can be extremely cold. Natural gas prices have doubled since 2003,
so many low-income households will struggle to pay their gas bills
"As families in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest prepare
for a long, cold winter with rising utility bills from all types of
fuel, your administration must put all existing dollars to use to
provide relief," the governor wrote to the president.
The Energy Information Administration, which releases official
energy statistics from the U.S. government, stated last month that
average heating oil prices "will be about 16 percent higher this
winter compared to last winter."
Through LIHEAP, run by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and
Family Services, heating bill payments will be made on behalf of
seniors, the disabled and those currently without home heating
during the priority period.
LIHEAP is a state- and federally funded energy assistance program
that assists households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the
federal poverty level. A single-person household can qualify with a
monthly income of up to $1,225, a two-person household up to $1,650,
and a family of four can earn up to $2,500. Benefits will be paid
directly to the household's appropriate utility.
The energy grant applications are processed through a network of
35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies
started accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis
from the elderly, disabled people and other priority households on
Sept. 1. The local administering agencies will accept applications
from all other income-eligible households starting on Nov. 1 until
funding for the winter heating program is exhausted. The winter
heating program is expected to serve 300,000 households this winter
with an estimated $150 million in state and federal funding.
This summer approximately 47,000 households received assistance
statewide through the LIHEAP Summer Cooling Program. Under
Blagojevich's direction, the Department of Healthcare and Family
Services provided a total of $8,503,187 in direct assistance to
families. The total number served far exceeded the initial estimate
of 40,000 applicants, which indicates that the cooling program was a
timely response to the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the
population: the elderly, disabled and households with children. The
coordinated outreach efforts by the local administering agencies and
LIHEAP staff combined to make the program a great success.
LIHEAP serves as many households as possible while giving
priority to households with the greatest energy burden and
households whose health and safety is threatened.
For a complete listing of LIHEAP's local administrating agencies
and additional information about the grant program, call the
toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-877-411-WARM (9276) or visit
[to top of second column]
A copy of Blagojevich's letter to Bush is below.
September 24, 2006
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Last week your administration released
$80 million in energy assistance funding under the Low Income Home
Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in anticipation of the winter
heating season. In doing so, the Department of Health and Human
Services used a formula that considered only the percentage of
low-income people using fuel oil to heat their homes. Unfortunately,
this formula did not provide Illinois and other Midwestern states
with the additional federal heating assistance funds they need to
help families cope with the high cost of home heating during this
fall and winter. Therefore, I ask you to release the remaining $22
million in federal heating assistance funds to Illinois and other
Midwestern states that did not benefits from the funds just
States will receive a portion of these
funds only if they have satisfied two criteria: 15 percent or more
of their low-income households use fuel oil for heat and below
average temperatures of less than 47 degrees for the six-month
period ending March 31, 2006.
Since most Midwestern states rely
mainly on natural gas for home heating, this standard excludes
Illinois and other states with long, cold winters and large numbers
of families suffering from severe heating cost increases. Natural
gas prices have doubled since 2003 with no end to the market
volatility in sight. And since eight out of ten Illinois residents
heat their home with natural gas, these rising prices are a
significant financial burden for Illinois families.
All states received shares of the
first FY 2006 awards. But this most recent release of funds only
targets 14 states. Directing the vast majority of these funds to
eastern states -- including some with warmer climates and shorter
winters than Illinois -- while denying needed heating assistance to
Midwestern states ignores the needs of our struggling families. As
families in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest prepare for a
long, cold winter with rising utility bills from all types of fuel,
your administration must put all existing dollars to use to provide
Mr. President, the LIHEAP program
exists to help low-income families to pay their home energy bills
and is not specific to the type of fuel that they use. So, the
assistance provided under LIHEAP should not single out only one type
of fuel but should provide relief to all families in need. Again, I
urge you to release the remaining $22 million in federal heating
assistance funds to Illinois and other Midwestern states that were
not given due consideration in the latest release of funds.
[News release from the governor's