As the coronavirus continues to claim new victims and wreak havoc on world financial markets, President Donald Trump is demanding that any additional government funds to combat the growing crisis in the United States be offset by cuts in assistance to a program that helps low-income Americans afford heating oil, a necessity in many states during the winter.

The Washington Post reports that money is already being stolen from the heating assistance fund:

“House Democrats tell us they are outraged by one aspect of the White House response in particular: The White House appears to have informed Democrats that they want to fund the emergency response in part by taking money from a program that funds low-income home heating assistance.

“A document that the Trump administration sent to Congress, which we have seen, indicates that the administration is transferring $37 million to emergency funding for the coronavirus response from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which funds heating for poor families.”

Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Democrats, told the Post the White House’s actions only serve to prove that the administration is woefully unprepared for a global pandemic which now threatens to sweep across the U.S.:

“After dithering for weeks as the coronavirus spread around the world, the Trump administration has now decided to pay for its belated response by cutting funding for heating assistance for low-income families.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says the administration’s stealing of money from a fund that provides heating assistance is completely unacceptable and insists House Democrats will offer their own plan that will address the added costs of battling coronavirus.

While $37 million may seem like a drop in the bucket in an age of trillion-dollar annual budgets, Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, says such a drastic cut could be catastrophic:

“Winter is far from over, and we need every dollar to help poor families. $37 million for example is enough to help close to 750,000 families. There is absolutely no good reason why programs designed to help poor families should be sacrificed to address the virus.”

For his part, Trump has seemed completely confounded by the virus, claiming the U.S. isn’t threatened and that a vaccine is at hand, even though medical experts doubt a vaccine will be ready for years.

The president will hold a news conference on the topic of the coronavirus Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.

Featured Image Via NBC News