In letter to federal officials, Governor stresses Low Income Heating Assistance Program must expand to meet needs of more Maine people amid record prices for home heating fuel.
With high prices for home heating fuel expected to persist into Maine’s winter heating season, Governor Janet Mills today sent a letter to Federal officials requesting increased funding and expanded eligibility for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to ensure Maine people are able to stay safely warm in their homes this winter.
Maine is expected to receive $38.7 million in LIHEAP funds for winter 2022. Last year, the program received an additional $55 million through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which enabled households enrolled in the LIHEAP program to receive one-and-one half tanks of heating oil.
In a letter to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Energy, Governor Mills stressed that, with current fuel prices, the anticipated funding for LIHEAP will instead provide only one-half tank of oil to Maine households this winter
“For vulnerable Maine households, this is the difference between having heating security during our coldest months for perhaps only days or weeks, instead of months,” wrote Governor Mills.
As a result, the Governor asked for an increased allocation of LIHEAP funding this year and urged the Federal government to consider expanding eligibility of the program to provide assistance to those who may not have needed it before, but do now because of higher prices.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted global energy markets earlier this year, prices for heating oil in Maine reached a peak $6 per gallon, the highest recorded figure in the 15 years of pricing surveys by the Governor’s Energy Office. Current prices remain approximately $5 per gallon around the state, with forecasts from the federal Energy Information Agency indicating these prices are likely to continue.
Maine is the most heating oil dependent state in the country, with 60 percent of homes reliant on oil, compared to a national average of 4 percent. This makes Maine vulnerable to volatile global energy markets, with Maine consumers spending more than $4 billion annually to import fossil fuels into the state prior to the Russia-induced price spike.
The Mills Administration, with the bipartisan support of the Legislature, has made reducing Maine’s reliance on fossil fuels a priority by enacting some of the boldest renewable energy, emissions reductions, and carbon neutrality goals in the nation.
This has included incentivizing installation of more than 60,000 high efficiency heat pumps in homes, businesses, and public buildings around the state, and making significant investments to weatherize homes, to expand our clean energy and energy efficiency workforce, and to increase efficient, affordable housing options for Maine people through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.
This year, the Mills Administration has also taken direct action to help Maine people with rising costs of energy, including:
- Returning half of the state’s budget surplus to Maine people through $850 relief checks;
- Securing a one-time bill credit of $90 for tens of thousands of low-income customers of Central Maine Power and Versant;
- Providing $800 in heating cost relief to nearly 13,000 low-income households to help pay for high energy costs;
- Signing into law LD 2010, sponsored by Senate President Jackson, that will make a tiered credit of up to $3,000 available to Maine small businesses to offset increases in the standard offer for electricity;
- Providing up to $1,400 in tax relief for eligible low- and middle-income Maine families and seniors.