SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A utility assistance program that President Donald Trump targeted for elimination in his proposed budget appears to be safe for the winter ahead in Missouri.
The short-term plan to fund the government for three more months as Congress debates a longer-term solution means the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, and the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, will continue to help more than 178,000 Missourians.
Carl Rosencranz, executive director, Ozark Area Community Action Corporation, says Show Me State residents raised their voices, and those voices were heard.
“I tend to think a lot of people talked to their Congress people about it and explained to them the benefits of the program, that we don’t want people to make choices about their basic needs,” he states.
LIHEAP helps families pay their utility bills when their power is, or is about to be, disconnected. WAP ensures that low-income households have adequate insulation and functioning heating and cooling systems.
The programs are most active during the winter months, so Rosencranz says he’s pleased the federal extension came when it did. Still, he says they’ll need to be diligent during further budget talks.
Under LIHEAP, a family of four earning less than $33,000 can request a one-time payment of up to $800 to help cover energy costs. In the summer, the maximum one-time amount is $300.
Jennifer Conner, a Sierra Club organizer who lives in rural southwest Missouri, notes that LIHEAP and WAP are not entitlement programs.
“A very small percentage uses it year after year,” she stresses. “It’s folks that are just kind of in a bind, they need a little bit of help and then, they’re able to move forward.”
LIHEAP has been in place for more than three decades, but Trump’s proposed 2018 budget zeroed out its funding. That changed last week, when the president struck a deal with Democrats on a short-term agreement that would continue to fund the government, avoiding a shutdown.