Cunningham/Turner Bill Would Urge Dca To Expand Access To Home Energy Assistance Programs

Senator Sandra Cunningham listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

TRENTON � A measure sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Shirley K. Turner, which would urge the State Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to expand its eligibility level for the awarding of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) from 175 percent to 225 of the federal poverty level, was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The LIHEAP program provides grant allowances to low-income residents who use oil heat. In October of this year, the federal government announced the release of $5.1 billion in LIHEAP dollars. Of the federal allocation, New Jersey stands to receive $185 million for energy assistance. Of the $185 million, an increase of $68.5 million was appropriated this year to help cover the cost of the program�s expansion.

�By increasing access to LIHEAP, about 50,000 more families will be able to heat their homes in the cold winter months, without having to go without other necessities like food or medication,� said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. �We aren�t asking for anything more than the State to do its part to allow some of our least fortunate residents to heat their homes. I don�t think that�s too much to ask.�

�The approval of this legislation would send a clear message to the federal government that we in New Jersey are serious about the needs of our hard-working, low income residents,� said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. �Many of these men and women work long hours, only to come up short at the end of the month, after paying for rent and other necessities. This bill is a step in the right direction toward easing the burden on this often overworked, and underpaid segment of New Jersey�s population.�

Under the Senators� resolution SR-1/SR-97, the DCA will revise its eligibility requirements for the LIHEAP program to match the recent federal government changes in an attempt to help cover the cost of services including emergency energy assistance, weatherization improvements, utility equipment repair and replacement.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.

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