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For Immediate Release

Date: 08/24/11

Top Legislative Leaders Call for Restoration of Heating Aid Funds

AUGUSTA - The Legislature's top leaders today joined the call for President Obama to reverse his decision to slash spending for LIHEAP, the federal program that helps low-income residents pay their heating bills.

Last year, Maine's LIHEAP allocation reached $58 million, but under the president's cuts, the state would receive only $26 million this year, a reduction of about 55 percent.

"A cut of such dramatic magnitude would be devastating to low-income Mainers who count on assistance to heat their homes in our tough winters," said House Speaker Robert Nutting (R-Oakland). "Last year, some 70,000 Maine families received an average heating assistance benefit of $844. We are talking primarily about the elderly, the disabled and families with young children.

"We would have to drastically reduce the number of families getting help and probably lower the average benefit they receive," he added. "With higher oil prices this year, the average cost of heating a Maine home could easily reach $3,000. President Obama needs to reconsider his decision and keep in mind that his action could have dire consequences for very vulnerable people."

LIHEAP stands for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Eleven CAP agencies distribute the funds throughout Maine, usually directly to the fuel vendors. More than 75 percent of Maine households heat with oil or kerosene.

Families receiving LIHEAP assistance have incomes below 230 percent of the federal poverty level. That works out to an annual income before taxes of less than $24,909 for a single person and $33,511 for a two-person household. Qualifying incomes rise depending on the number of people living in the home. Last year, 155,000 Maine households were eligible for LIHEAP benefits, but only about 70,000 of them participated in the program.

"Cold weather and high fuel prices are a dangerous combination for many Mainers," said Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Perry). "It is shocking that President Obama, who comes from the cold weather state of Illinois, is asking for such severe cuts to a program that can quite literally mean the difference between life or death for some people. It is a matter of misplaced priorities."

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Contact:
Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445