Trump Demands Dems Pay For Coronavirus Effort By Cutting Heating Oil For Poor

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead/Public Domain


The Trump administration's $2.5 billion coronavirus response plan includes taking money from LIHEAP.

House Democrats were outraged to learn that President Donald Trump’s plan for funding the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak includes taking millions of dollars from a program that helps poor Americans heat their homes, according to The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman.

The plan entails transferring $37 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, to the coronavirus emergency response — a move that Democrats view as unnecessary provocation at a time when a clean funding bill could be passed.

“After dithering for weeks as the coronavirus spread around the world, the Trump administration has now decided to pay for its belated response by cutting funding for heating assistance for low-income families,” Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats, told Sargent and Waldman.

While the amount is only a small part of the $2.5 billion the administration is seeking, it would be detrimental to low-income Americans who rely on LIHEAP to keep warm in the winter months.

Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, said hundreds of thousands of families would be impacted by the move.

“Winter is far from over, and we need every dollar to help poor families,” Wolfe said. “$37 million for example is enough to help close to 750,000 families. There is absolutely no good reason why programs designed to help poor families should be sacrificed to address the virus."

Rather than bow to Trump’s plan — which also involves taking money from Ebola response preparedness and other priorities — House Democrats intend to offer their own funding plan. All of the money would be appropriated as new emergency funding, an aide told the journalists, and not take a cent from other sources.

“House Democrats won’t allow the president to shut off families’ heat in the middle of winter,” Hollander said. “We will craft an emergency supplemental that treats this pandemic seriously and provides robust funding without stealing from other important priorities.”

The only problem? “Democrats will need Trump, the administration and Senate Republicans to agree to it,” Sargent and Waldman noted.

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