Funding for LIHEAP should be increased, not cut

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We know in New Hampshire, some of our neighbors need a little more than a blanket to warm up in the winter.

There are more than 30,000 applications for an estimated $28 million in heating aid for the current year of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in New Hampshire.

That is an average benefit of $622 for each Granite State application, according to the Associated Press. And those of us who brave the New England winters know that may not be enough to heat a home.

For a decade, this Health and Human Services program, better known as LIHEAP, has helped homeowners who cannot cover the monthly cost of their energy bill or repair broken or ineffective furnaces.

There are good cuts to federal spending, slashing red tape and some of the unnecessary community block grants; but the heating fund is vital to low-income families across Northern New England.

Frankly, this program has been critically underfunded in previous years.

Only about 20 percent of qualifying households receive assistance before the funding goes dry.

Any further cut, or the complete elimination of LIHEAP, would be a tremendous hit to those in our region who need the most assistance.

In addition to the 30,000 applications in this state, Vermont has been given $18.9 million to aid about 20,000 people. Roughly 77,000 Mainers benefited from the program, and the AP reports that is less than a quarter of eligible households.

The Campaign for Home Energy Assistance said LIHEAP aids more than 6 million households nationwide.

To date, more than 30 consumer advocates and attorneys general have called upon Congress to retain the federal heating program. We join in this campaign to fund LIHEAP and urge New Hampshire's congressional delegation to do everything possible on Capitol Hill to remedy this blunder.

Congress should not gut LIHEAP, they need to expand funding immediately.

To play off a popular "Game of Thrones" motto, "Winter is Coming," and in New Hampshire it is coming sooner than we anticipate despite the thermometer topping 85 degrees in Nashua this week.

But before we know it, those heavy blankets will be coming out from the cedar chest, and there is no reason for our friends and neighbors to face another frigid weather without a helping hand.

— The (Nashua, N.H.) Telegraph, Aug. 3

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