Gov. Peter Shumlin and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick spearheaded a bipartisan call on Congress from 15 Governors to urge level-funding for LIHEAP, the low-income home heating program that faces up to a 50 percent reduction in Washington.
In a letter signed by Governors from primarily cold-weather states, the group said "time is of the essence. Winter has already begun in our states, and distributing meaningful benefit levels to households in need is critically important."
"Vermonters are facing a devastating cut in heating assistance this winter unless the White House and Congress approve the funding to ensure every family can afford to stay warm," Gov. Shumlin said. "No one should be forced to choose between heat, food, medications and other vital necessities. Today I join other Governors and leaders in urging Washington to stand up for Americans with winter approaching and provide the funding necessary to guarantee a warm home for all."
The Governors are calling for $4.7 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the same amount approved last year. In addition, they are asking Congress to require the federal Health and Human Services Department to distribute $3.4 billion to the states now, pending approval of the additional $1.3 billion, arguing that families need the money immediately to begin heating their homes and cannot await final Congressional and White House approval of the full-funding.
"As the heating season begins, home energy prices remain high," the Governors wrote. "We request your timely action to ensure LIHEAP funding in this fiscal year will allow states to provide meaningful assistance to vulnerable households struggling with home energy bills."
About 27,800 low-income Vermont families depend upon heating assistance to stay warm this winter. Earlier this month, Gov. Shumlin directed an initial $13.5 million LIHEAP payment to assist families in need of heating assistance, enabling families to afford at least one minimal delivery of home heating fuel as the cold weather gets underway. Vermont is receiving a total of $11 million from Washington for LIHEAP this year, significantly less than past years.