The following is a joint letter to VT legislators on the urgent need to increase funding for heating assistance.
March 18, 2013
We are reaching out to you to convey our deep concern for the tens of thousands of low income seniors who rely on LIHEAP to stay warm during Vermont's cold and long winters.
As you know, the federal government has cut its support of this program by 40% over the last few years. Thankfully, the Shumlin Administration has stepped up to the plate at the last minute in each of the last few years to partially offset these federal cuts.
Looking ahead, the Governor has offered $6 million in his budget for next winter. However, it is unclear whether he or the Emergency Board will be there to further supplement that amount next November.
Clearly, $6 million is significantly less than the $8.8 million in state support appropriated for the current heating season. Moreover, we have seen the added pressure of $900,000 moved to the crisis program, which eats away at the seasonal program seniors so rely on. And as you are aware, the sequester could well exacerbate the program by another $1 million.
As advocates, we have been working hard with the Natural Resources Committee to ensure that Vermont gets the best bang for the money it uses to support this critical program. This is an urgent request be-cause we could easily be as much as $5 million short of this year's funding levels.
We implore you to keep with tradition and, at the very least, set aside sufficient monies for the contingency that this program will run out of money as we approach next winter. No Vermonter should have to choose between heating their home, putting food on the table or buying the medicine they need to remain healthy.
Thank you very much for your consideration. We understand the challenges you face.
Greg Marchildon Gini Milkey (Virginia A.)
State Director AARP Vermont Executive Director COVE