Governor LePage Applauds U.S. Senators for Effort to Restore LIHEAP Funding

December 7, 2011

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531

As federal cuts loom Governor LePage seeks alternative funding resources

AUGUSTA – With colder weather approaching and rising energy prices, Governor Paul LePage is commending U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe for her effort to push Congress to restore funding to the Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income families and seniors on fixed-incomes with their energy bills.

In a letter written to members of the Committee on Appropriations last month, Governor LePage called on Congress to support LIHEAP at the highest possible level for FY2012. Governor LePage and fifteen other Governors stated in the letter, “We write to express our deep concern that thousands of vulnerable low-income households in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and across the country will begin this winter facing both high home energy prices and a deep reduction in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) home heating assistance. We urge you to support $4.7 billion for LIHEAP in FY2012, the same funding as last year.”

Today, three U.S. senators from New England, including Senator Snowe, introduced a bill to protect the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Jack Reed of Rhode Island say the funding level proposed by the president will leave many low-income families choosing between heat and food this winter. Maine Senator Susan Collins advanced her support to the bill as a co-sponsor.

The LIHEAP Protection Act would provide the same level of funding as last year’s level of $4.7 billion. 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, down from $55.6 million last year.

“I thank Senators Collins and Snowe for their willingness to put this issue in the forefront. However, I understand the financial difficulties the federal government faces today,” said Governor LePage. “That’s why I have asked MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick to develop a contingency plan that will help bridge the gap if LIHEAP funding is significantly reduced. We must think outside the box and not rely solely on the federal government. There are programs, for example, Efficiency Maine, that have funding which could be used to supplement LIHEAP. It’s just a matter of getting approval from legislators to use those funds, and right now the appropriate decision is to ensure our seniors don’t freeze this winter.”