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Vermont officials announce historic levels of federal home heating assistance funding

winter house
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
House in mid-winter

Vermont officials are welcoming news that the state will receive more funding this winter than it ever has for LIHEAP – the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Vermont’s governor and Congressional delegation gathered in Montpelier Thursday to announce that this year’s heating assistance allocation will more than double. Republican Governor Phil Scott says federal LIHEAP funding has been substantially increased resulting in an unprecedented investment in the state’s program.

“This year Vermont will receive an additional $28.3 million on top of the $20.7 million we normally see in our block grant for a total of $49 million for LIHEAP. With this increase in funding we’ll make sure eligible families have a warm home this winter," said Governor Scott. "These additional dollars will allow us to do a number of things to help the vulnerable. For example we’ll be able to increase fuel benefits, provide more money for weatherization services. These federal LIHEAP funds are coming at a good time as we head into winter because we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”

Independent Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate budget committee, calls it a moral imperative to assure no one goes without heat in the winter.

“In the American Rescue Plan Act we increased LIHEAP funding by over 50 percent. And that means as the governor just indicated we now have the opportunity in this state to make sure that far more people receive the benefits that they need and that they are entitled to.”

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Democrat Patrick Leahy urged Vermonters who need assistance to apply for the funds.

“Last year 39,000 Vermont households were able to receive a combined $19 million in heating assistance and now even more are going to be able to be helped. Not just keep your home warm but replace old fuel tanks, weatherize your home so it’ll take less to keep it warm." Leahy adds, "Nobody should have to choose between heating their home, putting food on the table. We know there’s increasing fuel prices but LIHEAP can help.”

Democratic Congressman Peter Welch says there is an urgency to provide heating assistance to vulnerable households facing a precarious economy.

“Folks who don’t have any control over energy prices and who don’t have any control over how cold it gets, those folks have got to stay warm.”

BROC Community Action serves Bennington and Rutland counties and is part of the Vermont Community Action Partnership. CEO Tom Donahue says the additional funds will help address longstanding needs and it’s important that people know the funds are available.

"The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be a really long cold winter. So the most important thing is getting the word out, to make sure that people don’t hesitate to apply. And we at the community action level, we’re the boots on the ground, we’re ready to assist. But we do have to make that connection to Vermonters in need and we don’t want them to hesitate to reach out to us if they are in need because these are vital funds.”

The Department for Children and Families administers the LIHEAP program.

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