U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the release of $325,060,769 in heating and home energy assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months. Even though the number of households eligible for the program continues to exceed those receiving assistance, this funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn and rising energy costs, helping to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine. New York State is the largest beneficiary of LIHEAP funds in the nation and over one million New Yorkers rely on LIHEAP to heat their homes during the winter.

“Hundreds of thousands of fixed-income seniors and low- to moderate- income New Yorkers rely on LIHEAP funding to help pay for the home heating costs that have become a larger and larger share of their budget. With winter fast approaching, this $325 million federal investment will help New York’s most vulnerable cover their high energy costs, meaning fewer people will have to make the agonizing decision over whether to pay energy bills or put food on the table,” said Senator Schumer.

“This necessary funding will help keep more than one million New Yorkers warm this winter,” said Senator Gillibrand. “No family in our state should ever be left behind in the cold in their home. This first installment is crucial for families throughout the state who have braved through recent storms and frigid temperatures to have the resources they need to stay warm throughout the winter.”

New York State is set to receive over $325 million as part of initial LIHEAP funding provided under the Continuing Appropriations Resolution of 2017. New York State has received over $300 million in LIHEAP funding each fiscal year for the last eight years. Without these federal resources, households nationwide may have been subject to cuts in federal heating aid during this year’s winter months.

In March 2016, Schumer and Gillibrand were joined by a group of 39 senators in a bipartisan letter to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee  urging for increased funding to LIHEAP in Fiscal Year 2017 to ensure more families can access the resources they need to heat their homes this winter.

With the average LIHEAP funding estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for households, Schumer and Gillibrand along with 38 senators called on the President in 2015 to restore LIHEAP funding to not less than  $4.7 billion in the FY 17 President’s budget request to Congress.