Georgia to Receive More LIHEAP Funds for 2012
(APN) ATLANTA — The State of Georgia is set to receive an additional disbursement of funding for the low-income energy assistance program, LIHEAP, now that US Congress has decided on a final budget for FY 2012.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is releasing 845 million dollars in addition LIHEAP funding to the states, in addition to the 1.7 billion that has already been provided. The total allocation is 2.581 billion for FY 2012, according to HHS.
Of the new allocation amount, Georgia is set to receive 27.4 million dollars.
This means that community action agencies across the state like the Fulton-Atlanta Community Action Authority are set to begin taking more LIHEAP applications in January 2012, as soon as they receive the necessary funds from the state, and, in some cases, hire or re-hire staff to administer the applications.
These funds will be available to Georgia’s general low-income population, not limited to seniors and disabled persons.
HHS announced it would be making the funds available on Thursday, December 22, only days after the federal budget was passed.
“There are low-income families, children and seniors across the country that need help paying to heat their homes,” Jeannie Chaffin, director for the Office of Community Services at HHS, said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of getting these funds out quickly so that families can get the help they need during the winter.”
While overall budget reductions were quite low this year, the LIHEAP program was singled out for a 25 percent reduction. The US House approved the FY 2012 budget with 3.5 billion for LIHEAP, which was already more than President Barack Obama had requested, or 2.57 billion.
It is not immediately clear why, if Congress approved 3.5 billion, HHS is only disbursing 2.581 billion, but the agency’s press office is currently closed for the holiday break.
The US Senate was not allowed to offer amendments on the budget as passed by the US House.
However, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, a multipartisan bill in the US Senate, the LIHEAP Protection Act, has been introduced to restore LIHEAP to 2011 funding levels.
Several Republicans have co-sponsored the legislation, in addition to several Democrats and independents. The bill has 24 co-sponsors, in addition to US Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI); however, neither US Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) nor Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have signed.
A companion bill has been introduced in the US House, introduced by US Rep. Chellie Pingrie (D-ME). US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is among 17 co-sponsors in the House.
It is expected that several Members of Congress, particularly those from up north, will continue to push for the rest of LIHEAP to be restored.
FACAA began taking LIHEAP applications from seniors and disabled persons as usual on November 01, 2011.
Some 1.86 million of federal LIHEAP funds for FY2012 were released to FACAA in anticipation of the FY2012 budget, although well below even what the President requested.
FACAA took in 5,174 LIHEAP applications during November and announced it had run out of funds before the applications could even be opened to the general public on December 01.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources finally released to FACAA the first round of LIHEAP funds to cover the 5,174 applications on December 08, 2011, in the amount of 1.86 million dollars.
The average payment–made payable to a gas or electric company on behalf of a Georgia resident–has been 345 dollars.
Now, FACAA and other community action agencies across the state will receive additional funding for LIHEAP based on the passage of the FY 2012.
US Congress also funded CSBG in the FY 2012 budget at the same funding level as 2011, which FACAA uses to operate its programs, which means that normal programming will resume in 2012.