State Facing $11M Cut To Heating Aid This Winter
With the winter season bearing down on the Berkshires, the federal allotment that provides heating aid for lower-income families has been cut by more than $11 million from last year's allocation.
The Berkshire Eagle reports the cuts in the allotment to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) come after the
Trump Administration has twice tried to eliminate the program funding completely in its last two proposed federal budgets.
The president tried to justify his actions by citing widespread fraud in the program without offering any evidence to support his claims.
As a result, the state will only receive $136.5 million, $11.2 million less than last winter. Overall, funding for the LIHEAP program was increased nationally by nearly $50 million, to $3.65 billion. Other nearby states also endured cuts: Rhode Island was cut by $3.1 million, Pennsylvania lost $8.1 million and Connecticut was underfunded by $5.4 million.
LIHEAP benefits are larger for applicants with less income and bigger households. Applicants on the higher side of the income scale will receive smaller benefits.
Both state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said they fully expect to see legislation soon to authorize a supplemental budget allotment to bolster LIHEAP this season, but neither was sure how much that might be.
Barrett and Hinds both noted that the vast majority of LIHEAP beneficiaries are elderly and on limited or fixed incomes.
LIHEAP funding is distributed to the states through block grants. Each state decides how to administer and distribute those funds.