SALEM, Ore. -

The Oregon Public Utility Commission on Friday urged Congress and the Obama administration to restore Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program  funding to Fiscal Year 2009 levels by appropriating at least $5.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2015.

The PUC says it is concerned about the ability of Oregon’s low-income customers to afford utility service.

The commission noted the steady decline of funding levels for LIHEAP since 2009. The administration’s FY 2015 budget proposal reduces LIHEAP funding by an additional $674.4 million dollars (from $3.47 billion to $2.87 billion). 

“Considering previous funding reductions, another 20 percent cut is unbearable and will put many of the most vulnerable at significant risk, especially the fixed income elderly,” said Commission Chair Susan Ackerman.

In 2013, only 30 percent of eligible low-income consumers in Oregon received the energy assistance help they desperately needed, the commission said. 

The PUC said it appreciates congressional efforts last year to restore $169 million to the total FY 2014 $3.425 billion LIHEAP appropriation. 

However, since FY 2010, LIHEAP funding has declined by 30 percent (from $5.1 billion in 2009 to $3.47 billion in 2014) as energy prices continue to rise. 

"Continued cuts to this vital program can only hurt the most vulnerable of our constituents," the PUC said in a statement. "The majority of this assistance benefits the elderly, children, and our veterans."

 

Now is not the time for another cut in this vital program – a cut that results in eliminating an additional 1.6 million households from the program.