AID

The Denver Post - - NEWS - Stephan Savoia, AP

num­bers rep­re­sented less than a quar­ter of el­i­gi­ble house­holds, said Deborah Tur­cotte of MaineHous­ing, which helps to run the pro­gram.

Perkins is a typ­i­cal re­cip­i­ent.

His in­come was fine 10 or 12 years ago when he re­tired, but gaso­line, food and other ex­penses grew faster than he an­tic­i­pated. In the win­ter, he keeps an eye on his oil stor­age tank, and the lo­cal com­mu­nity ac­tion agency sends 100 gal­lons when it gets low.

It’s dif­fi­cult for him to keep warm be­cause he’s on a blood thin­ner, and he shud­ders at the thought of be­ing cold. But he doesn’t want to move south, ei­ther.

“I was born and raised here,” he said. “Maine is part of me. I can’t imag­ine liv­ing any­where else.”

Mark Wolfe, of the Na­tional En­ergy As­sis­tance Di­rec­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­ly­ing on an old Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Of­fice re­port on the fraud claim, and that im­prove­ments have been made since then. In Maine, for ex­am­ple, only 100 cases — 0.3 per­cent of all sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions — are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for po­ten­tial fraud, ac­cord­ing to MaineHous­ing.

And pro­grams aimed at pre­vent­ing util­i­ties from be­ing turned off wouldn’t pro­tect every­one. Util­ity reg­u­la­tions vary, with some states pre­vent­ing shut­offs dur­ing the en­tire win­ter and oth­ers do­ing so only on ex­cep­tion­ally cold days.

And there’s ab­so­lutely no re­quire­ment for heat­ing oil and propane deal­ers, which are not reg­u­lated such as elec­tric and nat­u­ral gas util­i­ties, to make de­liv­er­ies to cus­tomers who can­not pay. That’s a big prob­lem in the North­east, which ac­counts for more than 80 per­cent of the na­tion’s res­i­den­tial heat­ing oil con­sump­tion.

Health and Hu­man Ser2010 vices Sec­re­tary Thomas Price, who con­tends the LIHEAP pro­gram doesn’t demon­strate “strong per­for­mance out­comes,” said dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions are nec­es­sary to stream­line the govern­ment to fo­cus on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goals of de­fense and pub­lic safety.

The LIHEAP pro­gram al­ready has un­der­gone sub­stan­tial cuts.

The av­er­age ben­e­fit has been re­duced by $100 from to 2015 as fund­ing was slashed dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. That co­in­cides with Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. end­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in a free-oil pro­gram run by a Mas­sachusetts-based non­profit.

Na­tion­wide, the av­er­age home heat­ing cost last win­ter was $1,448 for propane, $1,227 for heat­ing oil, $902 for elec­tric­ity and $577 for nat­u­ral gas.

Many ob­servers refuse to ac­cept that the pro­gram will be elim­i­nated.

It’s just too pop­u­lar in Congress, and it also dis­trib­utes aid to poor peo­ple in states such as Florida and Ari­zona to keep cool on blaz­ing hot sum­mer days.

Sen. An­gus King, an in­de­pen­dent from Maine, said he and other sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing fel­low Mainer Su­san Collins, a Repub­li­can, will fight for the pro­gram, which he said en­sures that needy peo­ple “aren’t forced to make the im­pos­si­ble choice be­tween heat and food, med­i­ca­tions or other ne­ces­si­ties.”

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