Murkowski Makes Move to Help Rural Alaskans’ Energy Costs

Senator Works to Fund Low Income Energy Assistance

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Murkowski took the opportunity today during a Senate Appropriations Committee markup to advocate increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – a key program to many Alaskans dealing with expensive heating bills – by diverting some of the $1 billion being set aside for implementation of the health care reform bill, known as the Affordable Care Act. 

“I find it unconscionable that so many rural Alaskans are facing high prices on heating oil they can barely afford,” Murkowski said. "The national unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1%, with more Americans falling below the poverty line and struggling with the most basic monthly expenses. In this economic environment, I believe it makes more sense to take money out of a brand new start-up program that will receive over $17 billion in the next decade -- if it makes it through multiple court challenges -- and put it towards a proven program that has helped millions of the most vulnerable Americans.” 

When the FY2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was considered, LIHEAP programs were cut by over $1 billion dollars from FY2011 funds to a level of $3.6 billion nationwide.  These programs help economically challenged areas in Alaska and across the country with their heating needs in the cold Alaskan months. 

Murkowski’s amendment to restore $500 million to LIHEAP was rejected over concerns about the offset from the health care bill. However, Senator Murkowski received a commitment from Subcommittee Chair Senator Tom Harkin to work to increase LIHEAP funding.