Congressman Ed Markey joined with other House Democrats on Tuesday to reintroduce legislation to expand funding for residential heating assistance before the so-called sequester kicks in.
Markey and four other New England lawmakers, including Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, are seeking increased funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps thousands of Bay State families and millions across the country.
The broad federal spending cuts that threaten to take effect later this week could hurt low-income families in a number of ways, Markey said in a statement. “During such a harsh winter, no family should also worry about heating their home and keeping their kids and other family members safe from the weather,’’ he said.
According to a report released earlier this month by Markey, sequestration would reduce energy assistance funds by $6.7 million this year in Massachusetts. That’s on top of cuts that already reduced the year’s budget for the state to $132.7 million from $160 million, according to the community advocacy group Action for Boston Community Development.
About 50,000 residents of the Commonwealth who use costly oil heat have already run through their assistance allotments, according to ABCD. The program is available based on income; for instance, a families of four earning up to $60,137 annually is eligible, as are individuals earning up to $31,271.
Nationally, the heat assistance program has seen $1.6 billion in cuts since 2010, Markey said. “My bill is a matter of simple compassion, and I encourage my colleagues to expand this program so we can protect Massachusetts and American families,’’ he said.
Other members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill are Representatives John Larson and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Peter Welch of Vermont.