Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) -- who have long championed the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) -- Friday announced $17 million in funds to assist Vermonters seeking help to meet their home heating needs this winter, only days after the first snowfall of the season.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: "LIHEAP is a lifeline to more than 25,000 Vermonters who need energy assistance to stay warm in the winter. Seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities, and low-income families spend a growing portion of their income heating their homes. Without this bridge of assistance, many Vermonters must choose between heating and other vital necessities, including food and costly prescription drugs. LIHEAP is a program that proves, year after year, to be one of the most effective expenditures of taxpayer dollars, and successfully leverages investments from all stakeholders in keeping Vermont families safe and healthy."
This federal funding, granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is part of a nationwide release of $3 billion in LIHEAP funds to help low income households pay for heating and/or cooling their homes. The funds represent about 90 percent of the funding approved for LIHEAP under the Continuing Appropriations Act signed into law last month. HHS will release the remaining funds for the program following the completion of Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bills.
LIHEAP is administered by the State of Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, with support from Vermont's five community action agencies.
Earlier this month, Senators Leahy and Sanders sent a letter to HHS requesting the release of as much federal funding as possible to Vermont despite the recently passed Continuing Resolution, which forestalls allocations prior to the passage of a federal spending bill. Congressman Welch led a bipartisan group of members of the House in sending a similar letter to the Department.