WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 24, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a longtime champion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) today received an award from the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA) for his continued support of the program. Rep. Markey recently introduced legislation that would increase the funding available for the vital energy assistance program and expand those who are eligible to receive aid, and today called for the Obama administration to release the remaining emergency funds from this year’s pool.

In a ceremony in Washington, Rep. Markey received the “Joe Moakley Award for Outstanding Congressional Service in Support of Low Income Home Energy Assistance” named for Rep. Markey’s friend and former colleague, the late Rep. Joe Moakley (D-Mass.).

I am incredibly grateful to receive this award in honor of my friend Joe Moakley, whose work to keep millions of families warm has earned him a warm place in the hearts of all New Englanders,” said Markey. “New England was the site of the perfect storm off our coast, the winds rising as the barometer dropped and temperatures plunged. This winter, rising heating oil prices, an economic downturn, and plunging temperatures have created an economic perfect storm onshore for millions of New England families.”

The LIHEAP program is on track for a third year in a row of record-breaking requests for assistance, with as many as 10 million families expected to apply for aid. Last year, states assisted 8.3 million households, with more than 185,000 Massachusetts families receiving help in 2009. There has been a 25 percent increase in applications for assistance in Massachusetts thus far this winter, as average household expenditures on heating oil are expected to increase to $1,911 from $1,864 last year, according to the Department of Energy.

As we wait for the economy to heat back up, we need to make sure that millions of families are not left without the heating oil  or natural gas they need to get through the winter,” continued Rep. Markey. “No family should ever have to decide between heating or eating, food or fuel.”

Experts like those at NEADA are now concerned that states may have to turn people away during a difficult economic period. Responding to this growing crisis for Massachusetts and American families, Rep. Markey announced today a four-step plan to shore up LIHEAP:

— First, the President must release the remaining $100 million in emergency funds immediately and he must send those funds to states like Massachusetts that have a high percentage of people using home heating oil. One week after Rep. Markey led a letter with 113 House colleagues calling on the president to release the emergency funds, he dispensed $490 million. Now the administration must get the remaining funds to states to meet increased demand.

— Second, Congress needs to pass a supplemental appropriation for LIHEAP in order to ensure that states can bring everyone who needs help in from the cold this winter.

— Third, LIHEAP must be funded at a level of at least $5.1 billion for the next fiscal year so that we do not have another home heating crisis next winter.

–And finally, Congress should increase the authorization for LIHEAP given the record number of families who are now applying for aid. Last month, Rep. Markey introduced a bill (H.R. 4554, the “Energy Assistance for American Families Act”), that would increase the authorization for LIHEAP by $2.5 billion per year to $7.6 billion annually.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has been a key priority for Rep. Markey since the program was enacted in the early 198Os,” said Mark Wolfe, the Executive Director of NEADA, who presented Rep. Markey with the award. “He has been a leader in helping low income families meet their energy needs not just in Massachusetts, but across the nation. His recent introduction of The Energy Assistance for American Families Act that would increase the funding to $7.6 billion is yet one more example of why the members of the National Association of Energy Assistance Directors’ Association voted unanimously to honor Rep. Markey with its “2010 Joe Moakley Award for outstanding congressional leadership in support of LIHEAP.”

Currently, people are eligible to receive assistance from the LIHEAP program if they earn up to 60 percent of the median income earned by the citizens of their state. In Massachusetts, this means that a single person with an income of less than $29,126 is eligible, and a family of four would be eligible for assistance if their annual income is less than $56,011.

Rep. Markey’s bill, the Energy Assistance for American Families Act, would also widen the availability of the funds to account for the tough economic times. The bill would allow states to make LIHEAP funds available to those who earn up to 75 percent of the median income. In Massachusetts, that would mean that an individual making up to about $36,400 and a family of four making up to roughly $70,000 annually would be eligible for assistance.

The current maximum benefit for fuel like oil and propane is $1,240. LIHEAP covers up to 54 percent of heating costs for Bay State families who use oil, and up to 66 percent for those who use propane. For those who use heat covered by an utility—from natural gas or electricity—the $1,055 maximum benefit covers 100 percent of heating costs.

In Rep. Markey’s 7th district, there are several organizations that provide home heating assistance for those seeking aid:

South Middlesex Opportunity Council covers many communities in the Metro West area 508-620-1230

CAPIC, which covers Revere and Winthrop  617-889-8120

Community Teamwork Inc. in Lowell covers communities including Arlington and Waltham 978-459-6161

Tri-CAP, which serves Everett, Malden, Medford and other surrounding communities (website still under development) 781-322-6284

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