Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: LIHEAP An Important Safety Net for Maine’s Most Vulnerable Citizens
Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
I have spoken recently about energy costs. Today, I will continue that theme, but instead of addressing the energy industry, I want to talk with you about Maine’s most vulnerable making it through the winter.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, “LIHEAP,” is a federal program to help low-income people pay their energy bills. The Maine State Housing Authority administers this program through contracts with the state’s Community Action Program Agencies (often called CAPS) and involves about 450 fuel vendors, mostly oil dealers, to deliver fuel to the program’s participants.
This is an important program. This safety net keeps many of Maine’s elderly and people living with disabilities and low-income families warmer in their homes through the winter. Without this program, many of these people would suffer needlessly from extreme cold or be forced out of their homes.
I appreciate Senator Snowe’s vigilance in advocating for LIHEAP funding at the federal level. Maine received $34.9 million in LIHEAP funding in November. This represents 90 percent of our total expected funding for this winter. The federal government has held the other 10 percent back in case of sequestration.
My administration is working closely with the Maine State Housing Authority and Efficiency Maine Trust to develop a comprehensive plan to minimize the impact on Maine’s most vulnerable households. In addition to direct heating assistance, these agencies will provide a limited amount of funds for furnace repair and home weatherization, particularly homes heated with electricity.
Unfortunately, the amount of federal funding is likely to stay at a lower level than in previous years. Due to our state’s own fiscal crisis, the State of Maine cannot make up the loss. However, we can make the most of these vital funds to assist the most needy by good planning and efficient deployment of our resources.
My administration, alongside Maine State Housing Authority, has created an energy plan that ensures the highest benefit to those with the lowest incomes and highest heating needs.
Conservation activities are also an important part of our efforts. Maine’s housing stock is the sixth oldest in the nation. Many of our homes lack sufficient insulation and have outdated heating systems. Weatherization efforts help address these challenges and conserve fuel, in turn making the most of our limited funds. However, the state cannot weatherize every home that needs it. This is why volunteer and charitable efforts such as Keep Maine Warm are critical partners in this effort.
Your personal generosity of both your time and donations to local weatherization efforts and fuel assistance programs can help ease the burden.
As we prepare for the holidays and the winter ahead, take a few moments to help another family prepare as well. Small efforts can mean big savings, and everyone benefits.
Lastly, I want to share with you a resource that all Mainers in need of heating assistance can use. The telephone number is 2-1-1. Local resources are available and if you don’t know what they are this is a good place to start. Again the number is 2-1-1.
Nobody should be left out in the cold this season. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to help protect our most vulnerable.