What’s in the FY 2009 Budget for Energy Assistance?

| April 7th, 2008 |

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Key Findings: 

MAYOR’S BUDGET PROPOSAL

  • The FY 2009 proposed budget for LIHEAP is $17 million.
  • This is $5 million less than the FY 2008 budget. LIHEAP received $4 million in supplemental funding in 2008 that is not being continued.
  • Nevertheless, the proposed FY 2009 budget is still a substantial increase in local funding when compared with the early 2000s.

COUNCIL MARK-UP, APRIL 30

  • The Committee did not change the Mayor’s proposed LIHEAP funding level.

FULL COUNCIL VOTE, MAY 13

  • The Council did not change the Mayor’s proposed LIHEAP funding level.

 

Summary of Mayor’s Proposed Funding Level

The appropriation for LIHEAP in Mayor Fenty’s proposed FY 2009 budget is $17 million. This reflects a nearly $5 million decline — or 23 percent — from the $22 million appropriated in FY 2008. (All figures have been adjusted for inflation to equal FY 2009 dollars.) The decline largely reflects the fact that LIHEAP received a one-time $4 million funding boost in FY 2008 as part of a supplemental budget adopted in January 2008. The decline in funding means that LIHEAP will serve fewer households in FY 2009 than this year if the Mayor’s proposed budget level is adopted.

 

Summary of Council Committee Mark-Up and Full Council Vote

The Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs met on April 30 to mark-up the budgets for agencies under its purview, including the DC Energy Office. The Committee did not change the funding level for LIHEAP from the Mayor’s proposed funding level, although the Committee’s budget report acknowledged the LIHEAP funding shortfall and indicated that “the Committee remains committed to working with the rest of the Council to seek additional funding in the FY 2009 budget.”

The full DC Council voted on the DC budget on May 13. It also did not change the LIHEAP funding level.

 

Analysis

It is worth noting that despite this decline, proposed funding for LIHEAP in FY 2009 represents a substantial increase over funding in recent years. In FY 2004 for example, LIHEAP received just $7.2 million.

This funding growth represents an increased commitment to supporting LIHEAP with local resources, following a recommendation made by the 2006 Comprehensive Housing Strategies Task Force. Until recently, DC’s LIHEAP program was funded primarily by the federal government. Beginning in 2004, however, the District started supplementing inadequate federal funding levels. By FY 2007, the local appropriation for LIHEAP exceeded the federal funding level. In FY 2009, local funding represents two-thirds of the program.

The increase in funding starting in FY 2006 has allowed LIHEAP to serve more residents than it has in the past. This is important because energy costs have risen substantially in recent years. According to the DC Energy Office, the number of households receiving Energy Assistance grew from 24,000 in 2004 to roughly 30,000 in 2008. At the same time, the program still reaches fewer than half of all eligible households, and it still runs out of funds before the end of the fiscal year. This year, for example, LIHEAP funds will be exhausted by May.

The funding increase also has allowed the program to make some other needed policy changes. Chief among them was an increase in the eligibility threshold. Prior to FY 2007, residents were eligible for LIHEAP if their household income was less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Many families with income above that threshold, however, remain very needy but could not receive assistance. In FY 2007, the District raised the LIHEAP threshold to 60 percent of the state median income. For a family of three, 60 percent of the state median income equals $36,072, which is roughly 200 percent of the poverty line. This threshold is consistent with other means-tested public benefit programs that set their eligibility thresholds at two to three times the federal poverty line in recognition of the fact that many families with income far above the poverty line still experience hardship.

FY09 Budget Toolkit

| June 8th, 2007 |

The DC Budget Toolkit is designed to help you understand the budget of the District of Columbia and follow the annual budget process. Users can find out how much is being spent in different areas, compare spending to previous years, and obtain the tools necessary to get involved in the budget process.

The Toolkit tracks spending from the release of the baseline budget in February, to the release of the mayor’s budget request in March, the District Council’s consideration (or “mark-up“) of the budget from March through May, and the budget’s final submission to the full Council for a vote in June. It has two main components:

1. Budget summaries with charts and explanations of key funding changes, including the impact on services for District residents.

The Toolkit contains a summary for the entire budget proposal, a summary of the final DC budget, and summaries of some key issues affecting low- and moderate-income families, such as:

Child Care
Education
Employment/Training
Energy Assistance
Healthcare
Housing
Taxes
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

2. Downloadable Excel spreadsheets that show the change in spending by appropriation title and by agency.

How Can You Use the Toolkit?

  • Download budget summaries to use as a reference. Regardless of how you participate in the budget process or whether you simply observe, you can use the budget summaries as a quick reference for information on the budget as a whole and on the issues that specifically concern low- and moderate-income DC residents. Also, if you are knowledgeable about a particular area of the budget but want to know how other areas are faring, the budget summaries can help.
  • Use the spreadsheets to do your own analysis. Don’t take our word for it — look at the numbers for yourself! Find out where the funding increases and cuts are, then use the budget summaries to find out if those funding changes will mean more or fewer services for DC residents. Also, find out how different agencies have fared over the past few years. (We’ve adjusted all past budget figures for inflation to allow for an appropriate comparison between budget years.)
  • Download relevant reports by DCFPI and other organizations. Year round, DCFPI performs research and analysis on the District’s tax and budget policies, particularly as they concern low- and moderate-income DC families. These reports provide valuable context for examining the DC budget. In addition, DCFPI works with a number of organizations through the Fair Budget Coalition to assess the budget’s impact on human needs — including child care, health care, and homelessness — and to produce a tally of budget needs for low- and moderate-income families. You can access this year’s report using the Toolkit.
  • Get involved in the budget process. Use the Toolkit to find out how to do everything from getting a copy of the budget, to attending a budget hearing, to contacting local officials.

Tell Us What You Think of the DC Budget Toolkit

We’d like to know who you are, how you are using the Toolkit, whether you find it helpful, what we should add, and what we can take away. Email us and let us know what you think.

The DC Budget Toolkit was last updated on 4/7/08.