Chiles's Big Chill

Article excerpt

Chiles's Big Chill

Thanks to Senator Lawton Chiles, it's an even colder winter for many low-income Americans. Right before Congress took its Christmas break, Chiles, as chair of an appropriations subcommittee, "won" a $300 million cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps the needy meet their heating bills.

Last summer the House voted to freeze the program at $1.82 billion, but the Senate, at Chiles's urging, adopted the Administration's figure of $1.24 billion, a 32 percent slash. The difference between the House and Senate levels had to be resolved in conference. Prior to the December meeting, forty-nine Senators sent Chiles a letter asking him to accept the House figure. The "average annual income of the recipient household is less than $6,500," they wrote. "Almost 40% of these recipients are low-income senior citizens. Many others are the working poor. . . . The average annual LIHEAP income supplement of about $208 means a great deal to these people, who too often must make the choice between heating and eating. …