Washington, D.C. — Today, shortly after the National Climate Assessment warned that the United States will experience a significant increase in hot summer days due to climate change, the Center for American Progress released an analysis urging Congress to help low-income Americans adapt to future heat waves by significantly increasing the FY 2015 appropriations to FY 2009 levels for the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
“Some politicians pay lip service to concerns over their constituents’ utility rates while simultaneously slashing programs designed to help low-income households with their electricity and heating bills,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow at CAP. “Both WAP and LIHEAP provide crucial supports for vulnerable families who are trying to cope with the effects of climate change.”
The National Climate Assessment predicts that most interior regions in the United States will become even hotter. For instance, the number of 95 degree or hotter days in the Southeast could double over the coming years.
This heat increase has grave health implications. The American Red Cross reports “excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.” Centers for Disease Control’s determined that “Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death,” but 18 percent of low income households lack it.
WAP and LIHEAP are two federal programs designed to help low-income households cope with their electricity and heating bills by making homes more energy efficient and paying part of their utility bills, respectively. Both programs have suffered from reductions in federal funding. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and 21 other senators wrote to President Barack Obama, saying, “we … should not burden ratepayers and consumers, especially middle and low-income families, with new [utility] costs.”
Congress can help low-income households adapt to climate change by actively supporting $400 million for WAP funds and $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in FY 2015. This would make additional homes more energy efficient and reduce families’ spending on utility bills.