WASHINGTON An annual fight over home energy assistance is beginning to heat up again.
Two days after the Obama administration proposed cutting funding for a program that helps the poor heat their homes, the programs supporters vowed to fight the measure and called for an increase instead.
Dont turn a cold shoulder to those in need, said George Coling, executive director of the National Fuel Funds Network, a group of energy companies, nonprofit organizations and other Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program supporters, at a Capitol Hill news conference. New York receives more LIHEAP funds than any other state.
The Obama administration has proposed $3.02 billion for the program in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, down from $3.7 billion this year and $4.7 billion in 2011. Advocacy groups urge funding at $5.1 billion.
We have the money. Our priorities are misplaced, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who cited other programs such as subsidies for corporate farms as less worthwhile.
Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said Wednesday that he expects a repeat of the past years fight, in which the House proposed less funding, the Senate more, and leaders worked out a middle ground. Last year, the House also proposed a change in the funding formula that would have steered more money to warmer states.
We think essentially the same thing will happen, said Mr. Owens, who didnt attend the news conference but has advocated for LIHEAP funding. This is a question of survival for people.
The north country and the Northeast have long been a focus for the program because of the regions cold winters and reliance on home heating fuel. St. Lawrence County has the most LIHEAP recipients in Northern New York, with 15,398 last year, Sen. Charles E. Schumers office has reported.
Nationwide, 8.9 million households receive LIHEAP money for heating or cooling, but more than 30 million are eligible, said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., at Wednesdays news conference. Military veterans comprise about a fifth of LIHEAP recipients, program advocates said.