Sunday, March 9, 2014
A federal home heating program that aids thousands of low-income Mainers is still facing a major cut as part of a planned year-end spending bill, says Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would get $3.5 billion in the catch-all 2012 spending bill congressional leaders are trying to finalize ahead of Friday night, when a temporary bill funding much of the federal government expires.
That's more than the $2.57 billion President Obama requested for the program, but far less than the $4.7 billion it received last winter, Snowe said. It means that Maine would receive about $40 million for the winter heating season, compared to about $56.5 million last winter.
Last winter, about 63,500 Maine households, with an average income of $16,300, got LIHEAP benefits averaging $804 over the winter heating season, according to MaineHousing, which oversees the program for the state.
But Snowe noted that the Obama administration had so far released just $1.7 billion for the program, which put Maine in line for less than $24 million if no more money was approved. The House initially supported $3.4 billion for LIHEAP this winter and the Senate $3.6 billion. so the final figure splits that difference.
But Snowe says she and Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will keep fighting for legislation they introduced requiring Congress to give LIHEAP the same $4.7 billion this winter that the program received last winter.
An increase above the $2,57 billion Obama requested is a step in the right direction, but "funding the program at $3.5 billion is disappointing and remains a massive cut," Snowe said in a statement this afternoon.
Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or email@example.com
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