Governor Deval L. Patrick
$15 Million to Heat Low Income Households
November 20, 2007
As Delivered

Learn more about Home Heating Consumer Assistance programs

Governor Deval Patrick

Thank you all I'm very proud - we are very proud to be here for the signing of a bill to provide $15 million in supplemental funding to our low income home energy assistance program.

I want to thank the legislature for taking swift action on this initiative and helping us to respond to a very very pressing need. As the temperature drops and the price of home heating oil continues to rise too many families in Massachusetts are facing challenges meeting their heat demands. Elderly residents, others on fixed incomes, and working families trying to make ends meet, are forced to cut back on necessary items like food and in some cases even medication and low income families, who already typically spend a disproportionate amount of their income to heat their homes, are facing an even greater financial pressure - growing questions about how to stay warm as winter comes on.

Unfortunately, the response of the federal government has been to reduce funding of this critical assistance. Recent attempts to increase funding for LIHEAP, as it's called, have been met with vetoes on the president's desk. So while heating costs have continued to rise and are expected to rise over 25% this winter alone, benefit levels at the federal level have been consistently cut. We are glad to be able to do what we can to help Massachusetts residents.

This supplemental legislation includes a one time state appropriation of $15 million for the federal low income home energy assistance program. Those resources will be necessary to provide additional heating assistance to low income residents across the Commonwealth, during the winter coming up. This should not and will not be the extent of our efforts to help. We are pledged to work together to monitor the situation and to take further action should the need arise.

As a start this summer, the Department of Public Utilities commissioners and staff met with electric and gas utilities operating in the Commonwealth to identify best practices around this program and identify where improvements could be achieved. As a result of those meetings, the DPU plans to issue a notice of inquiry to address a range of LIHEAP related issues which will include improvements in the utility arrearage management program and issuance of regulations regarding service termination.

Overall, the department is reviewing its regulations and practices to better serve all residents who rely on natural gas for heat. We also recognize that there are long term issues to be addressed here. The rising cost of energy and of home heating oil stress the need for real energy solutions, alternative and renewable energy solutions, and a greater emphasis on conservation and I want to call attention again to the energy bill which has been working its way through the house under the Speaker's leadership and Chairman Dempsey's leadership in close cooperation with the Senate President and our counterparts on the Senate's side - very important legislation to help us get to long term solutions.

Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi

I guess it's really very appropriate that it's snowing out today that we would sign this bill Governor. I think that's symbolic, but what that really means the symbol of that is that New England and Massachusetts is a state that has a very high energy cost for heating fuel here in Massachusetts and these uncontrollable costs that keep rising putting great stress financial stress on low income families here in Massachusetts and we as a legislature and as a state have always been there to help these people through our program that is so well administered through ABCD and my good friends Bob Cordy and the rest who are here reaching out to those people to make sure that they don't have to make those horrible choices that the Governor just alluded to.

So, I'm very proud to be part of helping people in this particular instance who are too poor or can't afford because of all of the financial pressures the money that needs to be spent on heating their home, and that's one of the essentials to people here in New England is the high cost of heating and the Governor alluded to the energy bill that Chairman Dempsey and I had put through the house and we believe that those long term solutions will be greatly helpful to people in reducing cost creating greater efficiencies, conservation, and our emphasis on renewable energy, and alternative sources of energy. So, where there's no dependence on us on these rising costs. So, that's the long term solution. This is the short term solution for those poor families here in Massachusetts.

I want to thank the Governor and I want to thank the Senate President. I want to thank Senator Morrissey, Senator Panagiotakos, my Chairman of Ways and Means who worked very hard on this, Bob Deleo, and my colleagues to my right who are here who advocates so very strongly for this. I want to thank them all for making this a reality, and I'm so very happy that we can help today. Thank you.

Senator Michael W. Morrissey

The Senate President was here a short time ago and wanted to leave at least one thought is that this is an important first step and the governor pointed that out who will take another step today with the help of the Senate President, my good friend Chairman of Ways and Means who said he can solve all the problems anyways having been there before.

It was easy to blame Senator Panagiotakos, but she's actually working on the veteran's LIHEAP program at a meeting right now and I know the speaker has expressed a strong interest with the session closing time. He's extremely interested in doing it as well. So we think that's another important component, and to my friends that worked so hard for the low income community I'm sure they're very very happy to be standing here today but privately they will tell you that it's a great first step as well and that we've been able to get people turned back on but they're still with the price of fuel, as the governor pointed out, as the federal government has retrenched from their position the cost of heating fuel now well over $3 a gallon is really adding to that woe. You get less and less fuel for the money that we have and this is critical money to help people stay in their homes. We have challenges ahead.