Maine bracing for two-thirds cut in LIHEAP aid

Posted Nov. 01, 2011, at 9:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — MaineHousing is joining Maine’s congressional delegation in urging Congress to approve more funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program after receiving notice late last week that Maine’s funds will be reduced by two-thirds for the coming heating season.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last Friday afternoon notified MaineHousing that it should expect to receive $23 million to apply toward its program obligations, down from $55.6 million last year.

“This is devastating,” MaineHousing Executive Director Dale McCormick said. “LIHEAP helps the neediest individuals among us, including low-income seniors and people who are disabled. With heating fuel costs already nearing a dollar per gallon higher this year, this drastic … a reduction could prove to be tragic. That’s what scares me.”

MaineHousing is working with Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud to encourage their colleagues to increase LIHEAP funding.

The federal government is operating under a continuing resolution rather than a budget, which would have funded programs at the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Two budget bills are under consideration. A Senate bill would give $45.7 million in LIHEAP funding to Maine and calls for allocating more funds to cold-weather states. A House bill sets the amount at $33.9 million and does not include a cold-weather state provision. McCormick and the Maine delegation support the Senate bill.

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