Shumlin directs $13.5 million to fuel assistance for low-income Vermonters

first_imgWith about 27,800 low-income Vermont families dependent upon heating assistance to stay warm this winter, Vermont Governor 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,’ 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.  According to the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, at $13.5 million, the average fuel assistance benefit in Vermont is expected to be $474 per family. According to the October Fuel Price Report published by the Vermont Department of Public Service, the average price of heating oil in Vermont is $3.68.  Based on this price, this level of funding would provide families that receive fuel assistance about 130 gallons of fuel. Speaker Shap Smith called on President Obama and Congress to fund, at least at last year’s levels, LIHEAP payments for Vermonters who will struggle to heat their homes this winter. ‘The average Vermonter spends nearly $3,000 on fuel costs annually. For many low income families and the elderly, this may be as much as 10 percent or more of their income,’ said Speaker Shap Smith.  ‘The current proposals in Washington will leave many Vermonters out in the cold. With the sluggish economy, and fuel prices expected to increase, this is no time to cut the funding of such a critical program.’ 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. 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 Governor 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.’ 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.’ Numbers Moving in the Wrong Direction Fuel Prices are UpFamilies Receiving Assistance is UpFunding Level is DownWinter Weather and Temperatures ‘ uncertain LIHEAP Benefit Purchasing Power Obama Budget:           Avg. Benefit $373      96 gallonsHouse Budget:            Avg. Benefit $694      172 gallonsSenate Budget:           Avg. Benefit $750      192 gallonsVermont Loan rate:     Avg. Benefit $474      121 gallonsLast Winter:                Avg. Benefit $866      262 gallon The average family uses 764 gallons of oil per winter.Governor Shumlin’s office. 11.2.2011last_img

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