For Immediate Release - October 31, 2007

Governor Patrick, Legislative Leaders Announce Emergency Home Heating Assistance

Governor files $15 million supplemental appropriation to aid low-income residents

BOSTON-Wednesday, October 31, 2007--In recognition of the home heating crisis confronting many elderly residents and low-income families, Governor Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi today announced emergency legislation to provide $15 million in state funding to supplement federal funding for Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

"I am pleased to join with the Speaker and the Senate President on this important initiative," Governor Patrick said. "We recognize the need to help those on a fixed or limited income keep themselves and their families safe this winter. Additionally, we will continue to work with our Congressional delegation to advocate for increased federal support for this program."

The Governor filed the $15 million supplemental appropriation today.

"We cannot wait until the frigid weather hits to help families in need keep their homes warm," said Speaker DiMasi (D-Boston). "I am pleased to stand with the Governor and Senate President to support this important program and am confident these significant resources will help keep people safe this winter."

"People shouldn't have to choose between food for their children and heat to keep them warm in the winter," Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. "There are too many families due to have their heat turned off, and rising energy costs aren't helping the situation. With this money, we are reaching out to families in need and helping them get through the cold months ahead."

LIHEAP is a federally-funded block grant program through which the federal government makes annual grant awards to states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Also known as the Fuel Assistance Program, LIHEAP is designed to assist low-income households with winter heating bills as a step towards financial stability. The program operates from November 1st to April 30th of each year. Local administering agencies determine household eligibility based on annualized income and household size. The agencies make payments for heating bills directly to the primary heating source vendor (oil, propane, gas or electric utility, wood or coal dealer) up to a fixed maximum benefit. Special provisions are made for households whose heat is included in their rent and/or who reside in publicly subsidized housing.

Households eligible for the Fuel Assistance Program include low-income homeowners and tenants with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, not to exceed 60% of the state median income.

In addition to working with the Legislature to make state funds available, the Patrick Administration is investigating regulatory options available through the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). DPU commissioners and staff have met with all of the electric and gas utilities operating in the Commonwealth to identify utility industry best practices with respect to the LIHEAP program and areas where improvements could be achieved. As a result, DPU will issue a notice of inquiry to address a range of LIHEAP-related issues, including improvements in the utility arrearage management program, and the issuance of regulations regarding service termination.

The three leaders also plan to work with the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to push for increased federal support for LIHEAP.

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