Matzie bills would modernize state’s home energy assistance program
Would require fuller distribution of federal funding; create year-round help
HARRISBURG, May 26 – State Rep. Rob Matzie announced today that he will be introducing a package of bills to strengthen the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, including a bill to ensure the state fully distributes the annual federal funding it receives to residents in need.
Matzie, who is Democratic chairman of the PA House Consumer Affairs Committee, said he is introducing the legislation to end an arbitrary state practice that is hurting low-income families.
“Every year, Pennsylvania receives federal funding for home energy assistance, and even though that funding arrives annually, the state makes a policy decision not to use all of it, but to hold some of it back for the following year,” Matzie said. “Some years, the unused portion is $10 million, but this year, it’s estimated to be between $50 million and $100 million.
“This funding helps hundreds of thousands of people with a real and immediate need – paying the gas, oil and electric bill. That need doesn’t disappear after the state arbitrarily ends funding for the year. We need to do a better job of driving out those federal dollars – particularly now, with rising inflation and gas prices leaving more families struggling.”
Matzie said his five bills would:
- Require the state Department of Human Services to expend all the federal money it receives annually from the federal government.
- Create the Retail Electric and Gas Customer Assistance Program, which would use $500 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to help electric and gas customers with accounts in arrears during the COVID pandemic pay down their accounts.
- Create a new LIHEAP program in Pennsylvania that is open year-round to assist with both home heating and cooling. The bill would be funded by the current federal funding along with a supplemental state appropriation to make up the difference. There are 11 other states with year-round programs.
- Codify the makeup of the LIHEAP Advisory Council and add legislative appointments.
- Require the state to create a plan identifying how it can leverage resources to provide more assistance to those in need.
Funding under LIHEAP is distributed via cash and crisis grants. More information about the current program is available at this link: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHEAP.aspx.