LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Many Arkansas families depend on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program to help them keep their heat and air on, but a new proposal to decrease the federal deficit could cut funding for LIHEAP by more than half.
Last year more than 75,000 Arkansas households received assistance either with heating or cooling their homes.
Starting next year though, that number could be significantly fewer if Congress passes the President's proposed budget.
Federal funding for the program now stands at $5.1 billion nationally. The cut would bring that down to $2.5 billion. Due to the formula which determines how much states get, Arkansas' funding would be only a third of what is it is now.
This comes as administrators with the Central Arkansas Development Council say even more Arkansans are needing help.
On Tuesday morning, more than 100 people lined up at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds for the LIHEAP application intake even before the doors opened. Many of those in line are out work and can't afford basic necessities like electricity or heat.
"I have no income whatsoever and I have to rely on what I can," says LIHEAP client Linda Hayes. "When they have this program, I have to break my neck to get down here."
LIHEAP helps those Arkansans with annual incomes up to 150-percent of the poverty level. But the help only comes twice a year, which is why Larry Cogburn, executive director of CADC, says President Obama's proposed 2012 budget cuts couldn't come at a worse time.
"We're very disappointed that the President has chosen to slash this program basically in half of the national level," says Rose Adams.
Adams is with the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association and says that cuts to LIHEAP would be detrimental to the state.
"We would probably have to provide less assistance to each household...by not being able to provide a summer cooling program when electricity costs are high," says Adams.
And less money would be available for winter heating, which LIHEAP client Cheryl Walker can't fathom at this moment.
"I'm disabled so I'm on a limited income every month," says Walker. "It only goes so far. I can't pay the bills from the start, especially when it gets too cold or too hot."
There are several advocate groups around the state and country who will be working to keep the current funding intact.
Meanwhile, the application intake for LIHEAP continues for the second day Wednesday from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m. at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.
Applicants must meet certain guidelines.