Amid Pandemic and Plunging Temperatures, Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Work to Help Low-Income Americans Pay Heating Bills

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden teamed up with 42 of their Senate colleagues in pushing for a significant funding boost for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next pandemic relief package. LIHEAP is a bipartisan, federally funded program that has a proven track record of helping low-income households pay their home energy bills. 

The program gave $33.8 million in assistance to Oregonians in 2020.

“The LIHEAP program is well-positioned to quickly respond to, and support the needs of, millions of American households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling to heat their homes this winter and cool their homes next summer,” the senators wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  “State energy officials have reported that they are ready to move additional LIHEAP funds quickly and have identified a need for an additional $10 billion to serve 11 million families, including newly-eligible households.”

Throughout the pandemic, Merkley has led his colleagues—including Wyden—in a series of steps to demand protections for Americans against utility shut-offs amid the pandemic, including by introducing the Emergency Water and Energy is a Human Right Act and the CONNECT At Home Act. Additionally, along with Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Merkley introduced a congressional resolution urging states and utility companies to issue a moratorium on gas and electric service disconnections, rate hikes, and fees.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The full text of the letter is available here.