With about 27,800 low-income Vermont families dependent upon heating assistance to stay warm this winter, Gov. Peter Shumlin today directed an initial $13.5 million LIHEAP payment to assist families in need of heating assistance, and called on Congress and the White House to boost heating aid to northeastern states.
"We can't make low-income Vermont families put off heating their homes until Washington takes action on this critical issue," Gov. Shumlin said. "And these families cannot be asked to choose between basic human needs - heat, food, health care and housing. Vermont and other states will push hard to ensure all families can afford to stay warm this winter."
This initial payment will ensure, until national LIHEAP funding is resolved, that low-income Vermonters can immediately receive at least a minimum delivery of home heating fuel at prices approaching $4 per gallon; additional payments will be made in the future. The state will issue a fuel assistance benefit in mid-November.
Vermont is receiving a total of $11 million from Washington for LIHEAP this year, significantly less than past years. Under the plan outlined by the Governor, Human Services Secretary Douglas Racine will transfer the $2.5 million from the Weatherization Trust Fund as a loan to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, for a total of $13.5 million, and increase the benefit to an average $474 per family from the Obama-approved $373.
Gov. Shumlin has spoken with other northern state governors to implore Washington to approve higher LIHEAP funding levels.
"Congress should maintain full funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), at least at the level appropriated last year by Congress," said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. "Millions of New Yorkers depend on this crucial assistance during the cold winter months and reduced funding during this economic downturn would cause New York to stop serving our households before winter is over. As a Governor who has made difficult cuts in my own state budget, I appreciate the tight budgetary climate Congress faces. However, given the continuing challenges facing our economy, this program is more essential than ever in providing a critical lifeline to those vulnerable New York households struggling to pay home energy bills."
Gov Shumlin noted, "The majority of the Vermont homes relying on federal fuel assistance have at least one child, person living with a disability or a senior citizen living there," the Governor said. "We cannot and will not allow vulnerable Vermonters to suffer without heat or inadequate heat moving into the winter season."