Alarmed by a proposal from the Administration and Congress to slash LIHEAP funding by nearly half, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is urging the Rhode Island congressional delegation to restore funding through this year to help struggling Rhode Island families.
"As many of us are getting ready to spend the holidays with our family and friends, we are blessed to have a warm place in which to lay our heads down each night. Unfortunately, too many Rhode Island families are not so lucky," wrote Kilmartin. "I am greatly alarmed that the Administration and Congress have proposed to slash LIHEAP funding in half this year, just as we come upon the winter season. As you well know, New England winters can be particularly cold, long and unpredictable."
Last winter, the LIHEAP program provided heating assistance grants to approximately 37,000 Rhode Island families, and another 7,000 families received crisis grants. In fiscal year 2011, Rhode Island received approximately $31.1 million. If the federal budget is passed as is, Rhode Island could receive as little as $15 million this winter.
The average heating assistance grant paid to Rhode Island families in 2010 was $390 per household. In December 2010, the average cost of home heating oil was $3.10 per gallon. Each LIHEAP grant provided families with approximately 125 gallons of oil for the winter.
This December, the average cost of home heating oil is $3.61 per gallon, 50 cents more per gallon than last winter. The increase in the cost of home heating oil, coupled with the draconian funding cuts to the program, is creating a very dangerous situation for Rhode Island families who are already struggling to survive each day.
"Rhode Island remains in the grips of a recession with more than 58,000 Rhode Islanders unemployed and many more underemployed. More Rhode Island families than ever before rely on federal food assistance benefits and local food pantries to put enough food on the table. And still, too many children and adults in Rhode Island will go hungry tonight. I urge you not to let them go to bed cold too," continued Kilmartin in his letter.
"I understand that difficult cuts have to be made to balance our federal budget, but LIHEAP should not be one of them. Home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of thousands of Rhode Island families and senior citizens. To cut LIHEAP funds during these difficult economic times would force too many people to choose between rent, food, medicine and heat. That is unacceptable, and I urge you to restore LIHEAP funding to last year's level," concluded Kilmartin.