House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., have reached agreement on an $8.3 billion supplemental spending bill that would refund any money transferred from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by the Trump Administration as part of its coronavirus response.
The Administration informed Congress on Feb. 24 that it intended to transfer $37 million from LIHEAP -- along with another $100 million from other programs -- to partly offset the cost of a proposed $2.5 billion federal response to the coronavirus.
In late February, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island issued a joint statement opposing the White House plan to transfer the $37 million in funding for the LIHEAP program to combat the coronavirus.
“Our priority is keeping people safe and healthy but taking money from LIHEAP would have the opposite impact. As a result of this $37 million cut, seniors and vulnerable families could be left out in the cold,” Reed and Collins said.
“Diverting LIHEAP dollars that people depend on in the middle of winter is not the right approach. There are better ways to dedicate the necessary resources to protect Americans from the coronavirus threat. We should speed needed coronavirus assistance through an emergency appropriation, not divert needed funds from LIHEAP and other public health priorities,” they said.
Collins and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, sent a letter to Shelby and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Vice-Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, on Feb. 28 opposing any shifts that would take funding away from LIHEAP.
Congress is expected to quickly take up and approve the supplemental spending bill and the President is expected to sign the bill into law, Shelby said on March 4.
The bill, H.R. 6074, passed the House the evening of March 4 by a vote of 415-2 and is expected to be taken up quickly by the Senate.