U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud says he’s hoping Congress will approve a bill during the lame duck session after November’s election that would prevent low-income heating assistance funds in states like Maine from dropping below 2010 levels.
Michaud said Friday he has introduced legislation to change the funding formula for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, so states where at least 25 percent of homes rely on oil heat don’t see their funds for federal heating assistance fall below fiscal year 2010 levels.
“We need to ensure that states like Maine that continually face high home heating oil costs are made a priority,” Michaud said in a statement.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget has proposed trimming LIHEAP funding as more households move away from oil to cheaper heating sources like natural gas. But more than a quarter of households in Maine and seven other states — mostly in the northeast — rely on oil for heat.
The law would ensure indefinitely that LIHEAP funding for those states doesn’t fall below 2010 levels.
Michaud introduced his bill about a week after Sen. Olympia Snowe announced that the continuing resolution Congress has been considering to keep the federal government funded for the next six months contains language in it that keeps funding for low-income heating assistance at last year’s levels.
Participation in LIHEAP has risen 54 percent since 2008, according to the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association. Some 8.9 million households relied on the program in 2011, according to the association.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services allocated $38.6 million in LIHEAP funding to Maine last season.
Gov. Paul LePage last week signed onto a letter with 13 other governors urging Congress to fund LIHEAP at last year’s levels.