January 18, 2022

Northeastern lawmakers eye triple heat aid

WASHINGTON – House members from the Northeast who are worried about rising energy prices asked Wednesday that federal home heating aid be more than tripled this winter.

The 21 lawmakers sent a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging that as much as $9 billion in heating aid be included as part of a new economic stimulus bill. They also requested up to $1 billion for weatherization programs to help homeowners conserve energy and save money.

Millions of poor and elderly people on fixed incomes rely on heating assistance through the government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help pay their bills.

Congress appropriated $2.57 billion for low-income home energy assistance last winter.

Soaring energy costs will make it difficult for millions of families to pay for both heating their homes and buying enough food, the lawmakers warned. With home heating oil prices already over $4 a gallon, many households in New England will be paying upward of $4,000 to heat their homes this winter, the lawmakers said.

“Keeping your home heated in New Hampshire is not a matter of convenience or comfort, but a matter of survival,” said Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., in a statement.

More than 6 million New England households rely on oil heat for their homes, the lawmakers wrote.

Mainers are especially at risk because roughly 80 percent of the homes in the state use oil as a primary heating source.

Maine’s two representatives, Democrats Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, issued a joint statement saying Maine families are “already growing increasingly worried about how they will afford to heat their homes in the months ahead.”

About 40 percent of Massachusetts homes use oil heat. More than 963,000 households in the state use home heating oil, which is delivered by more than 800 distributors, many of them small businesses.

“This summer, it’s gas prices that are red hot,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.. “But for some New England families this winter, the only heat they might feel is from home heating oil prices.”

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said families are struggling to keep pace with rising energy prices.

“Our request to triple home heating assistance funding is the right thing to do in what has been a tough year for the middle class,” Courtney said.

Cash-strapped families could face tough choices this winter unless fuel aid is boosted, said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-New Hampshire.

“I urge Speaker Pelosi to provide this emergency funding so families do not have to choose between putting food on the table and staying warm,” Shea-Porter said.

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