October 2, 2015—Congress avoided a government shutdown with the approval of a short-term measure that will fund government operations through December 11, 2015. The continuing resolution maintains the existing spending cap put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2013. This federal funding will continue until the mid-December deadline or until Congress approves a budget for Fiscal Year 2016. Those involved with LIHEAP are still trying to determine what all of this means for programs that are quickly approaching their heating seasons.
According to Brandon Avila, the director of the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance, the uncertainty poses a problem to programs such as LIHEAP since they spend a large part of their funding at the beginning of the program year. He looked to continuing resolutions in the near past for insight.
Avila notes the Administration had legal authority to release 90% of funds during the Continuing Resolution (CR) period in FY 2015 based on historical patterns of spending. That funding was provided under the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2015 Public Law 113-164 , which President Obama signed into law Sept. 19, 2014. Those funds were released on October 15, 2014.
Avila also noted that the FY 2016 funding bills that were being considered for LIHEAP were made public earlier this year, and both the Senate and House versions were similar. That will help avoid some confusion as the process goes forward, he said.
While the funding picture for FY 2016 might not be totally clear at this point, the Department of Energy Assistance did issue over $4.32 million of reallotted funds to LIHEAP grantees this week. These funds come from grantees that have funding remaining over the amount that can be carried over to the next fiscal year. Such funds are returned to the federal government, which reallots them to grantees. The funds released this week are from FY 2014, and all grantees that remain active at the time of the release will receive an award letter unless their allocation falls under $25.
These funds must be included in the grantee's FY2015 reports, but it is anticipated that the amount of these awards will permit grantees to include them in their 2015 Carryover Funds. Carryover Funds, allow grantees to use 10% of unobligated funds the following fiscal year.
Sources: LIHEAP Clearinghouse, NCLC listserv, Office of Community Services