September 19, 2019
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Maine officials oppose Trump cuts to heating assistance

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Curtis Emerson prepares to pump 40 gallons of oil into the house of a family on heat assistance in Ellsworth on February 1, 2011.

Maine’s utility customer advocate and attorney general joined counterparts in 27 other states to oppose cutting federal heating assistance programs for low-income households, which is proposed as part of President Donald Trump’s 2018 federal budget.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Public Advocate Barry Hobbins, both Democrats, co-signed a letter to members of Congress that asks them “to oppose any measure that would reduce or eliminate funding for these critical programs” and instead increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program.

The heating program for low-income households delivered about $22 million to Mainers last year, giving an average of $546 for the year to the 40,221 households that received benefits under the program.

It gave the most out in Bangor, Lewiston and Skowhegan, according to figures from the Maine Housing Authority.

[ Bangor would be hardest-hit by Trump cuts to heating aid]

Trump’s budget proposal says the program “is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes,” putting it on the chopping block alongside a raft of programs his administration identified as underperforming.

Maine’s plan targets populations most susceptible to hypothermia, primarily elderly residents and young children, with about 60 percent of the funds helping people pay heating costs.

[ How Maine fuel assistance funds have changed since 2013]

The amount of funding depends on household size, income and specific energy costs. The Maine officials said in a news release that the “funding is critical to ensure that low-income households can afford their heating and cooling.”

“The attorneys general and advocates argue that without this vital assistance, many of these families would be faced with the impossible choice of opting between heating and cooling their homes, and paying for other necessities, such as food and medications,” their offices said in a joint statement.

Read the full letter below.

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