BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is using stories of strife from Mainers in an attempt to convince the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to restore funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The Appropriations Committees are working on a final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012. Michaud said in a press release that he used his Facebook page to ask Mainers to send him their stories so he could demonstrate the “real-world impacts” of a recent proposal by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to curtail LIHEAP funding for Maine from $56 million to $23 million.
“As winter draws closer, individuals and families throughout Maine have contacted my office asking how Congress could consider cutting LIHEAP,” wrote Michaud to members of the panels. “Many of them do not know how they and their loved ones are going to make it through the winter.”
One story used by Michaud in his letter was from a disabled widow who lived on Social Security disability income.
“Last year my home used 1,600 gallons of oil and I was not warm,” wrote the woman. “Heating oil, as you know, is creeping toward $3.75 and most likely $4 per gallon this winter. My concern is for others as well as myself. With gas as expensive as it is, many of us are prisoners in our own homes.”
Michaud also cited a couple from Brewer who were eligible for LIHEAP last year but because of this year’s cutbacks won’t be eligible again.
“I am unemployed due to my company going bankrupt and closing all U.S. stores,” wrote one of the Brewer residents. “We have less than ⅛ of a barrel of fuel and do not know what to do to heat the house and keep my husband from getting sick (his immune system is low due to chemotherapy and radiation therapy). Please help us heat our house this winter.”
On Michaud’s Facebook page, more than 20 Mainers had shared their plights by Friday afternoon. One of them described the situation of her elderly mother, who lives on $300 Social Security income per month.
“If she didn’t have that help [LIHEAP], she would have to give up something to pay for heat, or freeze to death,” wrote the woman. “If they cut this, it is going to hurt a whole lot of people. They need not to cut it.”
Another woman wrote to Michaud on behalf of her 85- and 86-year-old parents.
“My dad is a World War II U.S. Marine Veteran,” she wrote. “They desperately need the assistance.”
For some, the ramifications of the LIHEAP cut can mean life or death, according to one person who wrote to Michaud.
“A close friend of mine lost his grandmother when she was denied LIHEAP a few years ago,” he wrote. “She died of exposure in her living room when she couldn’t afford oil, and they’re talking of cutting these resources further?”
Another man said he has never used the LIHEAP program but sees it as a responsibility for the government.
“This is America,” he wrote. “It’s our duty to assist those in true need, and the needy population is increasing every day with this economy.”
But some were less sympathetic, including someone who commented on Michaud’s Facebook page on Oct. 24.
“When does the money bleeding end?” he wrote. “If folks can’t afford to pay for heat in a cold state like Maine, maybe they need to think about moving to a warmer state? Or putting on long underwear and a sweatshirt in the house like I do?”