Phil Bartlett, Maine State Senate District Six  
 
 

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Senate Enacts Fuel Assistance Bill

January 4, 2006

AUGUSTA-The Maine State Senate today enacted a bill providing an additional $5 million for fuel and energy assistance to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly referred as LIHEAP. The final Senate vote was 32-0-3 in favor of the bill. The House gave its final enactment prior to the Senate vote.

The heating assistance bill was fast tracked through the legislative process as the legislature reconvened for the start of the Second Regular Session of the 122nd Legislature. Normally, legislative bills are sent to a committee for debate but in this case the Democratic and Republican Leadership in the Senate and the House strongly agreed that passage of LD 1891, An Act to Provide Funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, should be priority one.

Senator Phil Bartlett, Senate Chair of the Utilities and Energy Committee, said, "By enacting this legislation, we are coming together in the best bipartisan fashion to protect Maine's most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are seniors. Moreover, in making this legislation our first order of business we are sending a resounding message to the federal government about the priorities and values of the people of Maine."

Senator Brennan added, "The importance of this bill was also reinforced after we invited our Congressional Delegation to the Statehouse for an update on federal aid to LIHEAP. Our delegation reported back that while they were supportive of boosting federal aid to the LIHEAP-the rest of Washington and the Bush Administration did not seem to treat it as a priority."

The letter expressed concern for low-income families with children, the elderly and physically disabled living on fixed incomes. Many Maine people are dependent upon LIHEAP assistance and over 40,000 low-income Maine people received LIHEAP assistance last winter.

" Today we have sent a message to Washington that we will put our people first and that we don't want to see anyone in Maine have to make choices between food or heat this winter," Senator Brennan concluded.

Early estimates indicate that, based on current fuel prices, $10 million in additional funds for LIHEAP would be necessary to enable Maine to meet last year's fuel assistance needs. Governor John Baldacci is working to raise an additional $5 million through a fund raising campaign.

A recent report from the Congress indicated that the LIHEAP program has been flat funded by Congress since its inception.

LD 1891 will now be sent to Governor Baldacci to sign the bill into law. Governor Baldacci is expected to have a bill signing Thursday, January 5th.

More information about energy assistance can be found online at: www.mainesenate.org/energy.