I usually get a good night’s sleep, but I admit that the recent budget talks had me tossing and turning a bit. President Trump has taken a significant amount of backlash from Democrats, civic groups, the media and regular folks, about what appears to be an insensitive approach toward public policy. Policy which has been in place for decades and is designed to help the less fortunate.
My family and I are blessed that we are able to meet our energy needs but my good fortune does not allay my fears and concerns about the millions among us who may not be able to meet their energy needs without a little assistance from the federal government. My tossing and turning could in no way compare to those families who have to decide whether to keep the lights on and go hungry or eat by candle light.
So, with some trepidation, I combed through President Trump’s budget hoping to be surprised that even in light of his discontent for other social net programs, that he would see the societal benefit of increasing funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Paraphrasing a favorite psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of a Trump budget,” I came across the first signal that this budget would not be a good one for low income communities; when I saw the term “welfare reform.”
President Trump wants to reduce the welfare rolls by encouraging those who are able to work, particularly able-bodied persons, to re-enter the workforce. In a move toward fulfilling this policy goal, President Trump is recommending tightening the eligibility requirements for participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Participation in SNAP meets an eligibility requirement for participating in LIHEAP, so by tightening SNAP eligibility requirements, President Trump also threatens one vital pathway to LIHEAP eligibility.
As I move further through the “Valley of the Decreased Budget Proposal,” I came across one of the darkest of crevasses; the total elimination of LIHEAP. LIHEAP is funded out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ budget and Table S-6 of President Trump’s budget reflects no spending on LIHEAP.
Although funding for the program has been falling for the past decade, and frankly, while I and other advocates have been calling for increases to LIHEAP funding, we would have preferred, in the interim, some type of funding, a base, from which we could advocate for better energy policy for the neediest among our citizens. But now, even this platform has disappeared into the shadows of budget death.
We can re-enter into the sunlight when it comes to this important piece of energy policy. In Washington speak, this budget may be dead on arrival in the House, but to ensure LIHEAP’s resurrection, I will need each of you reading this article to click on this link and sign the LIHEAP Petition asking to increase funding for this very important program and/or contact both your representatives to the U.S. House and the two members of the U.S. Senate. Implore them to not only save, but to increase the funding for LIHEAP to help those facing energy insecurity.
May this call to action lead us out of the “Valley of this Decreased Budget Proposal,” as it relates to LIHEAP. Remember, the President’s budget is only a recommended budget. Congress actually appropriates the funding for the budget, which is why it is important to reach out to your Congressional leaders today!