WASHINGTON — Maine will receive an additional $5,411,630 in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding as part of the $453 million the U.S Department of Health and Human Services is releasing nationwide, members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced Thursday.
“This additional funding is welcome news as Mainers continue to cope with record-setting cold and rising heating costs,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who, along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., led the bipartisan effort to increase funding for LIHEAP by $169 million between fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014. The funding increase was included in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which the president signed into law earlier this month.
Collins said the LIHEAP programs assists some 8 million households nationwide, and nearly 50,000 in Maine.
“Many low-income Mainers are struggling to stay warm through this year’s bitterly and particularly cold winter temperatures,” said Sen Angus King, I-Maine, who also supported the bipartisan 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
“No one should be confronted with the stark choice of having to either pay the heating bill or provide for basic necessities like food and prescription drugs. I am pleased the administration has released these funds, which will certainly be a relief to those who desperately need them,” King said in the joint statement with Collins.
Rep. Mike Michaud joined other members of Congress in sending a letter to President Obama Thursday urging him to increase LIHEAP allocations to at least $4.7 billion for the fiscal year 2015 budget.
“This bitterly cold winter has shaken much of the country, and Maine is being hit hard. While this funding comes at a critical time, I strongly believe that President Obama and this Congress need to fund LIHEAP at a higher level because need continues to far outweigh resources. I am hopeful the president will help set the tone for an increase in funding through his next budget submission,” said Michaud in a press statement.
In November, HHS released $2.93 billion in LIHEAP funding nationwide as part of the continuing resolution that kept the government operating. The Consolidated Appropriations law includes a total of $3.425 billion for LIHEAP.