Congress cool toward plan to end heating aid
Trump proposes eliminating program for low-income Americans
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