GOP Governor Warns Obama Cutting Federal Heating Assistance Will Leave 600K Michigan Families Out In The Cold

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R)

In a letter to a Senate subcommittee, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) warned that the deep cuts to a federal heating assistance program proposed by President Obama would have disastrous consequences for his state’s poorest residents:

Governor Rick Snyder, together with state utility companies and social service agencies, is warning that federal heating assistance cuts proposed by the Obama administration would have disastrous effects across Michigan.

Congress is now considering President Barack Obama’s proposal to cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by 50 percent.

The block grant program is a major part of the safety net in Michigan and the proposed cut would leave the state with $120 million less to help subsidize heating costs for 1.2 million low income households.

The Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm noted that cuts to the program “will increase the home energy burden for the more than 600,000 households who annually benefit from LIHEAP.” Snyder reminded the senators that “winters in Michigan can be brutally cold” and that without federal funds to help families pay for heating, Michigan will either have to “reduce the number of eligible recipients, or reduce the level of assistance to a point that would not cover one month of heating for this coming winter.”

Chronically high unemployment in Michigan has forced more families to seek assistance from the program in recent years. Nationwide, 8.9 million households received federal help for heating or cooling this year compared to 5.8 million in 2008-09. Yet Michigan saw its federal funding plummet from $238 million to $38 million, and Obama wants to cut the program back to $2.5 billion for the entire country.

Jim Crisp, executive director of the Michigan Community Action Agency Association, which connects people with LIHEAP assistance, notes that Michigan’s social safety net is already developing gaping holes. “We’ve seen reduction of the Earned Income Credit. We are looking at the loss of [the state Low Income Energy Efficiency Program], and a 50 percent reduction in LIHEAP.” Even as he asks for federal assistance to aid low-income families, in his last budget, Gov. Snyder proposed eliminating the EITC altogether.