Thank you very much. I would like to thank my colleague, John Larson. It is really not a coincidence that those of us who are standing here today are from the northeast. We know how cold it is in New England and the northeast. I want to say a thank you to all of you for coming for folks who are here today and for my colleagues. You don’t do anything on your own and succeed in this institution. You stand tall with others and it is an honor for me to be here with Ed Markey, John Larson and Peter Welch, and there are others as well who are champions of this cause. I can recall one of the first issues I was ever involved in was a LIHEAP issue along with a former colleague of ours who was from Wisconsin and that is David Obey, so it has not been one part of the country but people all over who understand what it means to help people in their hour of need and in difficult and challenging times.
To the advocacy groups who are here, we thank you. Everyone who is engaged in the Community Action Partnership, our deep thanks. Your work is vital, what you do in providing energy for all of us and a support system for all of us as we make the fight in this body.
We have 8.3% unemployment, 1 in 6 people in poverty in the United States and millions of people all over this nation who are struggling. Now is not the time, it is not the time, to afflict these families with higher home heating prices. We are seeing a 10% higher heating oil price than last winter and 7% higher propane prices. These are the costs that the individuals that my colleagues have mentioned cannot afford, and they are not just statistics. They are human beings, and their families and their obligations are real.
They hit us particularly hard in the northeast. We suffer some of the coldest winters in America. As a matter of course, we are more reliant on heating oil than any other part of the country. Of the 8.1 million households in America that use heating oil, 6.3 million—or almost 4 out of 5—are in New England. As such, the average northeastern household that uses fuel oil is forced to spend nearly $2,000 in heating costs in the wintertime.
What we have seen in terms of the LIHEAP program over recent years are massive cuts. The final 2012 budget cut LIHEAP by 25%, $4.7 billion to $3.5 billion. The proposed 2013 budget out this week cuts the program by an additional $470 million. Even before the cuts, we could only afford to help out 1 out of every 4 eligible households. Now we will see millions more who will have to make that extraordinarily tough choice that my colleagues pointed to. No one should be put in that position. But the damage that will be done by this $470 million-cut—really the story cannot even be told. That is why I am a cosponsor. We need to pass Ed Markey’s energy assistance bill for American families.
I want to tell you because of the people who are here. There are people all over that are going through various offices. Do not take no for an answer. Fight back. Understand. Ed Markey talked about the billions in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. Start there. Let’s pull those back. Talk about the subsidies to big agriculture that we pay in this nation to plant nothing. We’re not talking about small farms. We are talking about big agri-business. Start with talking about the subsidies that we provide to multinational corporations that take their jobs overseas.
We can give you a list of others that you can point to when they tell you we don’t have the money to do this. We have the money. Our priorities are misplaced. That is what the issue is here. Let’s grab those priorities back. I won’t even talk to you about the $147 million we paid to Brazilian cotton farmers. The story is unbelievable. Or the people who can go out and buy a horse for $8.5 million, horse breeders, and they can take it as a write-off. Let’s correct some of those things before we take it out of the hide of people who are struggling, who are making that choice between buying food, paying their rent or being able to afford their heating costs. We cannot afford to make these cutbacks and not put this on the backs of the American people. We have a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable families can get by until they can get back on their feet.
I urge my colleagues, all of us here today, let’s join Ed Markey and the Energy Assistance Act, let’s stand up for LIHEAP in the Congress and in the weeks ahead while we debate this budget. We have to make it possible for Americans to get through this winter and be able to save themselves and their family.
Speech from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqOTJr4rtes.