Governor LePage Encourages President and Congress to Increase LIHEAP Funding
November 3, 2011
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531
Office of the Governor website: www.Maine.gov/governor
Federal Government cuts Maine fuel funding by two-thirds
AUGUSTA - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that Maine should expect to receive $23 million to apply toward the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), down from $55.6 million last year.
“The Federal Government needs to get its priorities straight. In Maine, we put our people first. The Federal Government needs to put Americans first,” said Governor Paul LePage. “Some of our most vulnerable, including our seniors, depend on LIHEAP funding to help keep them warm through the long winter season. This drastic reduction will put additional financial burdens on our local towns’ general assistance programs. Mainers just cannot afford to take on these added costs right now.”
LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income families and seniors on fixed-incomes with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter months. “80% of our households heat with oil. We’ve experienced our first snowfall and the temperatures have already dropped dramatically so it’s going to be a long winter and the need for fuel assistance is growing,” said the Governor.
Governor LePage will continue to work with Maine’s Congressional Delegation and other Governor’s to explore the possibilities of additional funding. This week, the Governor will send a letter to the President, Congressional leadership and Maine’s Congressional delegation urging them to support an increase of LIHEAP funding, which was recently cut by two-thirds compared to last year.
Earlier this year, the Governor wrote letters to Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud and fellow New England Governors to encourage an increase in Maine LIHEAP funding. On August 18th, Governor LePage wrote, “President Obama’s proposed LIHEAP cuts will put further strain on the resources of our state, while the need is greater than ever. Further, our non-profits and the charity of our citizens are both giving more than they can possibly maine into the future. It is times like these that we must act together to protect the men, women and children of the six New England states.”
Of the $23 million MaineHousing, the agency that distributes LIHEAP funding, is expecting to receive, about $800,000 which will go for emergency furnace repair; $1.5 million will go to the Emergency Crisis Intervention Program and $20 million will go to providing heating cost benefits for the approximately 65,000 households that will qualify for assistance. The average benefit will be $307, with the lowest benefit being $72 and the highest at $828.
According to MaineHousing, last year, approximately 64,000 households received LIHEAP benefits, and the average benefit was $804. Fifty-three percent of the households served included low-income seniors or persons who are disabled. The crisis fund helped 4,946 with a $400 average benefit.
Currently, the federal government is operating under a Continuing Resolution and not a budget that would have funded programs at the start of the federal fiscal year, which was October 1. In the past, MaineHousing has been able to notify the community action agencies and LIHEAP recipients by mid-October as to how much they’re going to receive in benefits because the budget was in place.
Two budget bills, however, are under consideration. A Senate budget bill would give $45.7 million in LIHEAP funding to Maine. This bill includes a provision to allocate more funds to cold-weather states. A House bill sets the amount at $33.9 million and does not include the cold-weather state provision.
To apply for LIHEAP assistance, people are asked to visit their nearest community action agency. A list is available at www.mainehousing.org and select “energy.”