Mikulski Calls For Immediate Relief For Low-Income Americans During Summer Heat Wave

Asks Bush to release remaining LIHEAP funds, provide much-needed money for energy bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues to urge President George W. Bush to release remaining Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to help Americans grapple with elevated energy bills. Currently, the LIHEAP fund has $101.5 million available to help low-income Americans afford increasing energy costs.

"Families in Maryland and across the country are feeling stretched and strained. They need immediate relief from spikes in energy costs," said Senator Mikulski. "That's why I've joined with my colleagues to help families in need."

The text of the Senators' letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to release all remaining Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency funds to help provide cooling assistance to low-income families this summer.

According to NOAA meteorologists, an unusually strong ridge of high pressure that has been persistent for the last several weeks across much of the central and eastern U.S. is causing record high temperatures this summer. More than 50 new all-time high temperature records were established across the country during the last two weeks. The persistence of the unusually hot temperatures has made the past month one of the warmest since records began in 1895 for the contiguous United States.

These searing temperatures, combined with record high electricity prices across the country, are putting many low-income families at risk for heat-related illnesses because they cannot afford the cost of electricity to cool their homes.

Many low-income families do not have adequate resources to pay their energy bills this summer. LIHEAP can provide life-saving assistance to provide air-conditioning and fans to the elderly and disabled.

Public health studies have documented that summer heat and heat waves can worsen cardiovascular disease (ischemic heart disease), increasing the risk of death from heart attack or stroke, and for those with respiratory diseases there is a greater risk of death from pneumonia and other ailments. Summer heat can also lead to hospitalization for those with pre-existing kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, and epilepsy. Indeed, the current heat wave sweeping the country has resulted in more than 160 deaths in California alone. These conditions can be mitigated by access to cooling during the summer months.

Your release of all remaining contingency funds to help provide cooling assistance is imperative to help in the effort to safeguard the health - and the lives - of low-income families across the nation.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this critical request.

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