Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Low-income Maine residents need heat!

I have never been to Maine in the winter, but I don’t think I’m going very far out on a limb when I say that it is brutally cold. A working heating system is an absolute life necessity for residents of Maine. Maine residents who cannot afford a good system have relied on federal assistance in the past. Many of these residents may not be able to do so anymore.

According to the New York Times, President Obama has proposed major cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Maine is “expecting less than half of the $55.6 million that it received last winter, even as more people are applying.” With rising oil prices, an increasing number of applicants, and significantly less federal funding available, many lower income Maine residents are potentially facing a winter with no heat.

There are a few different solutions that politicians and community leaders are exploring. Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) is targeting Efficiency Maine- a quasi-state agency that promotes energy efficiency by offering incentives to home and business owners – as a potential replacement source of funding. LePage views cuts to LIHEAP as posing an immediate emergency threat whereas Efficiency Maine is geared towards a more long-term solution. Efficiency Maine will have an estimated $53.5 million in funding over the next two years gained through electricity bill surcharges along with some federal funding. However, there is opposition from the Democratic Minority, who say that LePage is against efficient energy.

According to the New York Times article, Lepage is also trying to cut “heating oil consumption in half by 2014, partly by bringing more gas lines into the state.” However, this would not do much to solve the immediate potential crisis. A letter sent to the Kennebeck Journal reveals the true scope of the problem from one citizen’s point of view. She claims that low-income and elderly residents will now have to choose between “fuel and food, fuel and medicine, fuel and rent.” She ultimately urges Maine citizens to support LePage’s plan to transfer Efficiency Maine funds to help fund heating for Maine residents.


oceguera said...

Heat is definitely a life and death concern! Here in the central valley, every so often we hear air quality advisories from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. They put out daily forecast on the air quality and advise people not burn during poor air quality days or they risk getting fined. They do however, make the exception for homes that rely on burning if that is their only source of heat during these cold winter months. I think making exceptions or plans that account the limitations of low income residents such as the one proposed by the Main resident are important. At times, potentially life saving.

KevinN said...

Reading through the article on the Bangor News Daily, it sounds like the Democrats are accusing the Governor of undermining efficiency projects long-term. As an outsider looking in however, it seems that the Governor is simply trying to figure out a way to make it through this winter with the reduced federal stipend. It looks like local politics might be standing in the way of most people getting government assistance for their heat this winter. I'm sure the Democrats have their reasons for not wanting to shift the funds, but in the interest of those who are dependent on the assistance, perhaps they should reserve the fight for next summer.