BOSTON (AP) - The governors of all six New England states have signed a letter urging Congress to support a federal program aimed at helping lower-income families and seniors cover their home heating costs.

The governors are asking Congress to approve $3.6 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which they describe as "a critical bridge for Americans " who otherwise may be forced to "choose between paying home energy bills and paying for food, medicine, or other essentials."

The governors said the $3.6 billion request is lower than similar appropriations in recent years. During the 2010 fiscal year, the program received $5.1 billion in funding, 29 percent more than the current proposal.

Even as funding for the program has dropped, heating costs have remained high and demand for assistance remains unchanged, the governors said.