Congress cool to­ward plan to end heat­ing aid

Trump pro­poses elim­i­nat­ing pro­gram for low-in­come Amer­i­cans

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By David Sharp

PORT­LAND, MAINE» The sum­mer air is siz­zling as the Fourth of July ap­proaches, yet 86-year-old Richard Perkins al­ready worries about how he’s go­ing to stay warm this win­ter.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing heat­ing aid for low-in­come Amer­i­cans, claim­ing it’s no longer nec­es­sary and rife with fraud. Peo­ple needn’t worry about be­ing left in the cold, he says, be­cause util­i­ties can­not cut off cus­tomers in the dead of win­ter.

But he is wrong on all counts.

The heat­ing pro­gram pro­vides a crit­i­cal life­line for peo­ple such as Perkins, and of­fi­cials close to the pro­gram don’t see any wide­spread fraud. Guide­lines for win­ter shut­offs by util­i­ties vary from state to state and don’t ap­ply to heat­ing oil, a key en­ergy source in the brit­tle New Eng­land win­ter.

“It’s be­yond my think­ing that any­one could be that cruel,” said Perkins, a re­tired restau­ra­teur who re­lies on the pro­gram to keep warm in Ogun­quit, Maine.

The pro­posal to kill the pro­gram, which has dis­trib­uted $3.4 bil­lion to about 6 million house­holds this fis­cal year, will face strong op­po­si­tion in Congress.

Forty-three sen­a­tors from mostly cold­weather states signed a let­ter urg­ing the Repub­li­can chair­man and rank­ing Demo­crat on the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee to en­sure fund­ing for the Low-In­come En­ergy As­sis­tance Pro­gram, known in many states by its acro­nym, LIHEAP.

In Maine, the poor­est state in New Eng­land, the pro­gram helped nearly 77,000 peo­ple over the past win­ter, and those

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