Cardin Seeks Swift Release of LIHEAP Heating Help
40 U.S. Senators urge Trump Administration to make LIHEAP funds available to states
WASHINGTON (October 16, 2020)—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined a bipartisan coalition of 40 Senators in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, urging HHS to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as swiftly and at the highest level possible under the current continuing resolution. The Senators say the federal LIHEAP funding is a crucial lifeline that assists low-income households and seniors on fixed incomes pay their energy bills and stay safe during the winter. HHS typically releases 90 percent of the $3.7 billion full year appropriation under a continuing resolution.
“Families right here in Maryland and across our nation continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic. As the seasons change, and chilling winter weather approaches, the cost of utility bills are projected to increase, which will bring additional financial burdens to families. I was proud to join my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in urging the administration to release the funds for LIHEAP, as we worked together to appropriate this spending.” said Senator Cardin. “This critical funding will ensure families are warm and have the resources they need in paying their bills.”
The average cost of home heating is unaffordable for millions of low-income households, costing an average of $911 per year nationally. The timely release of these funds will provide critical assistance to families unemployed as a result of the pandemic pay their energy bills. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, 15 to 20 percent of residential customers are at least 60 days behind on their electric and natural gas bills. As of July 31, 2020, the estimated resulting electric arrearages are between $8 billion and $9.9 billion and natural gas arrearages are between $975 million and $1.3 billion.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low-income households with their home energy bills by providing payment and/or energy crisis assistance. Maryland’s LIHEAP is administered by the Department of Human Services, and accessed through Local Home Energy Program Offices.
Marylanders wishing to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program may go to the Maryland Department of Human Services website to get more information and links to an online application. Or, Marylanders may contact their Local Home Energy Program Office. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.
In addition to Senator Cardin, the bipartisan letter was signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
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To Be Equal: Confirmation of Barrett to Supreme Court Will Mark the Point of no Return for Independence of Federal Courts
“The Supreme Court doesn’t have an army, and it has no power of the purse. Its power comes from the fact that the public accepts its decisions, even when it disagrees with them. The Supreme Court has of course always been a political institution, but if it’s going to retain its public legitimacy it can’t be seen as simply another wing of partisan politics. Supreme Court nominations have become far too politicized, but packing the Supreme Court weeks before a presidential election is different in kind. It’s not simply another stress test for our institutions—there’s a real risk it will break them. That is genuinely scary—not just for the Supreme Court, but for the basic functioning of our country and the rule of law.”
—Alice Bannon, managing director, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program
The Trump administration and Senate leadership have spent the last four years cramming the Supreme Court and lower federal courts with ideologues intent on eradicating hard-fought civil rights and constitutional gains of the past few decades.
They’ve made no effort to respect the racial and gender diversity of our nation. Nearly 90% of his nominees to lifetime judicial appointments have been white and 76% of them are men—a reversal of a 30-year trend toward more diversity on the federal bench and an erosion of judicial legitimacy that is unprecedented in recent American history.
The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court will mark the point of no return for the independence of the federal judiciary.
While Judge Barrett may qualify by training and experience, she was nominated by the President because she passed a litmus test for judges likely to severely limit or overturn the Affordable Care Act, civil rights and voting rights, and women’s reproductive freedoms enshrined in Roe v. Wade and successor cases. Among the first cases a new justice will face involves a demand by the Trump Justice Department to repeal the ACA in its entirety, along with election challenges that could determine whether the president who appointed her is re-elected.
Trump has said the quiet part out loud. He makes no secret of the fact that he expects the Court to decide these election lawsuits in his favor and strike down the law that provides health care to millions of Americans during a deadly pandemic.
This administration inherited more than 100 federal court vacancies because during President Obama’s second term the Senate abandoned its Constitutional role in the lower court confirmation process—just as it did by refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
This administration has now appointed, and the Senate has confirmed, more than 200 life-tenured judges. Americans are, right now, in the process of electing a new president. Never has the Senate confirmed a new Supreme Court justice during a general election that will decide the presidency. The undemocratic rush to confirm this justice is part of a scheme to create a conservative supermajority on the Court that could overturn the will of a majority of Americans for decades to come.
What do African Americans have to lose with a super majority of conservative extremists on the Court? Monday’s appalling ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas is a prime example of how rank partisanship has infected the federal courts, obliterating any pretense of judicial objectivity and the rule of law. The three-judge panel—all appointed by this administration and confirmed along political party lines—upheld the governor’s decision to create a single ballot collection site for each county, including a single site for five million voters in a landmass larger than Rhode Island.
If the Supreme Court can sanction this kind of political manipulation, there are no limits on the rampant voter suppression we can expect in November’s election and years beyond.
The contempt this administration and Senate leadership have for the will of the voters and the Constitutional responsibilities of Congress is nothing short of breathtaking.
Even as a growing majority of citizens have loudly voiced their demand for racial and economic justice, firm enforcement of civil and individual rights, and the security of health care under the Affordable Care Act, Judge Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court represents a trampling of those demands.
History will not look favorably on what the Senate leadership appears poised to do. There is one last chance for them to honor their oath of office and the will of the American People and reject the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.
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ChildWatch: Millionaires and Billionaires Keep Winning and Poor Children Keep Losing
A recent Americans for Tax Fairness press release headline read: “BILLIONAIRE WEALTH GREW BY $845 BILLION, OR 29%, AS AMERICA STRUGGLED THROUGH FIRST SIX MONTHS OF PANDEMIC: While Millions Lost Jobs, Businesses, Health & Lives, Nation’s 643 Richest Saw Their Collective Fortune Leap Nearly 30%.” The report continued: “Needless to say, ordinary workers did not fare as well . . . In fact, this billionaires’ bonanza occurred against a general backdrop of working-class pain: 6.6 million Americans got coronavirus, and almost 200,000 died from it. Over 50 million Americans lost jobs, with nearly 14 million still unemployed. 30 million are collecting unemployment benefits (counting contract workers), up from 1.6 million a year earlier. Nearly 30 million Americans have gone hungry. 12 million Americans have lost employee-sponsored health insurance. Big swaths of business have shut down, including 100,000 restaurants.”
How does this comport with any standards of justice and common decency?! It is hard to believe fortunes have jumped astronomically for the wealthiest while millions of people are suffering including children who already were our poorest Americans pre-pandemic and most vulnerable to harm. Even at the economy’s height with low unemployment, 10.5 million children lived in poverty and millions more children lived in families on the edge—just one missed paycheck or financial shock away from hunger and homelessness and the dreadful stress they bring. In 2019 nearly 4 in 10 American adults didn’t have enough resources on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense.
Families were working to care for their children but our economy was not working for them with too many having a job that did not guarantee stability or security. Current poverty measures have not kept pace with the cost of living and the latest numbers don’t count the toll of the COVID-19 crisis. Recently released poverty data giving a snapshot of our nation before the pandemic confirmed about 1 in 7 children were poor in 2019. The overwhelming majority of poor children (70.1 percent) lived in working families struggling to make ends meet. Our youngest children were poorest and nearly three-quarters of all poor children were children of color.
The scary pandemic has exacerbated these economic disparities and exposed the fragility of an economy that invests in billionaires before babies, corporations before children, and warships before hard working Americans struggling to pay their bills. Recent Pulse Census data show more than half of adults in households with children say they or another household member have lost employment income since the pandemic began although the billionaires’ wealth increased. Nearly a quarter of adults in households with children are behind on rent and 1 in 7 said their children are not getting enough to eat. The annual cost of the Children’s Defense Fund’s proposed 2019 Ending Child Poverty Now package was $52.3 billion. Congress could fund our plan to cut poverty for 16 years with the same amount of money the richest Americans have racked up since the pandemic began. This is outrageous, insane, and profoundly unjust.
Congress can and must act now to protect millions of children and families left behind. The too small progress in reducing child poverty before the pandemic will be reversed if Congress fails to immediately pass robust COVID relief for families left behind and expand basic programs to help children survive, grow, learn and thrive during and beyond the pandemic. Cash assistance, child allowances, rental and housing support, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and unemployment insurance need to be immediately expanded to help families survive and thrive. Investing in healthy child development will not only help our economy but reduce racial disparities and improve child opportunities in the long run. It’s shameful that our nation permits billionaires to be big winners and poor children big losers. It’s way past time to vote for leaders who will put babies and children ahead of billionaires and wealthy corporations.
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