Negotiations over an aid package to help Mainers pay for home heating this winter will continue into the weekend, Gov. Janet Mills said on Friday.

Mills said she had “productive conversations” with Democratic and Republican leaders of the Legislature and hopes to come up with an agreement on an assistance program early next week.

Gov, Janet Mills said she and legislative leaders will continue to negotiate a program to help Mainers pay for home heating costs this winter. Toby Talbot/Associated Press, file

Heating costs are expected to rise sharply this winter. The Governor’s Energy Office said the statewide cost of fuel oil averaged $5.08 a gallon on Nov. 28 and hit $5.71 a gallon on Nov. 14. Those peaks stand in stark contrast to the averages during November 2021, when fuel oil cost around $3.15 per gallon.

Talks between Mills and lawmakers kicked into high gear this week after the state Revenue Forecasting Committee said it expects Maine will take in $283 million more than anticipated in tax revenue during the next year and $489 million more in the next two years. The windfalls could make it easier to convince legislators to approve an assistance program.

With the Legislature convening next Wednesday, leaders of both parties have said they want to provide heating assistance to Mainers this year.

Administration officials had said they expected agreement on a plan this week. But there was no word Friday on whether there was a disagreement over the scope of the program or if the earlier projections had just been overly optimistic.


The primary program to help pay heating bills in the state is the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is administered by MaineHousing. Maine usually receives about $40 million from the program, an amount that helps 35,000 to 40,000 households.

Last year, Maine received an extra $55 million for heating assistance under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, but funding is expected to revert to about $42.5 million this year.

More than 33,100 households have applied for heating assistance this year, an increase of nearly 20 percent over the same point last year, said Scott Thistle, spokesman for MaineHousing.

Eligibility is based on income, family size and energy costs. MaineHousing works with local community agencies to process the applications. The benefits are typically paid to fuel providers throughout the season.

More than $16.5 million in assistance has been distributed so far and the agency said it should be able to serve all the households that apply and are eligible for the program. Thistle said MaineHousing expects to work to distribute the aid from any assistance package that the governor and Legislature come up with.

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