Pledging to end the \u0022life and death crisis of energy injustice\u0022 in the U.S., Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Ed Markey on Thursday introduced a bill to expand federal investment in energy assistance for low-income households and protect millions of people from utility shutoffs.\r\n\r\nThe ability to heat and cool one\u0026#039;s home is a \u0022basic human right,\u0022 Bowman said as the lawmakers introduced the Heating and Cooling Relief Act. Yet one-third of Americans experiences some form of energy insecurity, the New York Democrat noted on social media.\r\n\r\n\u0022There is no reason why, in the richest nation on Earth, people in our communities should be forced to choose between staying warm in the winter or cool in the summer and being able to make rent or put food on the table,\u0022 said Bowman.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Heating and Cooling Relief Act would increase annual funding and expand eligibility for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is meant to help families manage the cost of home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and home repairs related to energy.\r\n\r\n\u0022The Heating and Cooling Relief Act is the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The net result\u0022 of the bill, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors\u0026#039; Association (NEADA), \u0022will be an end to the stubbornly high utility arrears and shutoffs that low income families have been struggling with for many years.\u0022\r\n\r\nHouseholds that earn up to 150% of the poverty level are eligible for LIHEAP, but only 16% of families who meet eligibility requirements—which must be proven with an \u0022assets test,\u0022 proof of residence in non-subsidized housing, or receipt of a utility shutoff notice—are actually served by the program, according to Bowman and Markey.\r\n\r\n\u0022I am grateful that Congressman Bowman and I are fighting to make sure that home energy funding—a critical lifeline for families throughout the country—will be available to all of those who need it,\u0022 said Markey (D-Mass.). \u0022Our Heating and Cooling Relief Act would provide LIHEAP funding to millions more Americans and ensure that the program has all the support it needs to enhance outreach efforts and serve all eligible households.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe Heating and Cooling Relief Act would:\r\n\r\n\r\n\tIncrease annual funding for LIHEAP to $40 billion and expand eligibility to ensure no household has to pay more than 4% of its annual income on energy costs;\r\n\tAllow households to self-attest to eligibility criteria to minimize barriers to aid;\r\n\tEnsure no eligible household experiences utility shutoffs or is made to pay late fees and clear utility debt for families receiving LIHEAP assistance;\r\n\tIncrease weatherization funding through LIHEAP;\r\n\tAllow states to use LIHEAP to address climate adaptation and ensure households can access utility aid during major disasters; and\r\n\tEstablish a new Just Transition Grant for states and localities to help reduce energy burdens for LIHEAP-eligible households and promote renewable energy usage.\r\n\r\n\r\nIncreasing investment in weatherizing homes would both \u0022reduce the energy burdens of LIHEAP recipients and cut down our fossil fuel use,\u0022 said Markey, who co-authored the Green New Deal resolution first introduced in 2019. \u0022The Heating and Cooling Relief Act is the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families and support a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption.\u0022\r\n\r\nBowman called the passage of the Heating and Cooling Relief Act a matter of racial justice, noting that Black, Latino, and Indigenous households are more likely to face energy insecurity and utility shutoffs.\r\n\r\n\u0022The lack of energy assistance is also a public health crisis, with\u0026nbsp;high energy burdens associated with a greater risk for respiratory diseases and heat strokes,\u0022 said Bowman.\r\n\r\nBowman and Markey introduced the legislation less than two weeks after a malfunctioning space heater in a Bronx apartment building led to a fire that killed 17 people. Tenants in the building reported that the use of space heaters is common in the winter as they struggle with insufficient heat.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022The rise in home heating costs this season may explain why some landlords might skimp on fuel, leading a tenant to supplement with an oven, stove, or space heater,\u0022 wrote Diana Hernandez in the New York Daily News last week. \u0022In addition, the Bronx has the highest concentration of energy-burdened households, meaning that they allocate a disproportionate share of household income to utility bills.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe Heating and Cooling Relief Act is endorsed by groups including Public Citizen, the National Consumer Law Center, the National Housing Law Project, and the Sunrise Movement.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022People should not be forced to use a space heater or a stove to stay warm during the winter,\u0022 said Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill.