April 3, 2015—The Vermont House recently passed the FY 2016 state spending package H.490. After a few last-minute amendments they sent it on to the Senate where it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. H. 490 proposes cutting $6 million in supplemental funding from the state for Vermont's LIHEAP. The additional funding was first included in the state's FY 2014 spending package. The original intention of the $6 million from the state was to supplement the ever-decreasing federal funds to the LIHEAP program.
The $6 million cut proposed by H. 490 was not favored by lawmakers on either side of the aisle, but no one was able to propose a feasible alternative to fill the $113 million gap between the state's projected revenue and its expected spending. However, one amendment introduced by Rep. Susan Davis, allowed the first $5 million in general fund surplus that would normally be deposited in the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to be appropriated for use by the LIHEAP program. The House agreed to this amendment, and, upon a third reading, passed H. 490 as amended.
In late March, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) rallied bipartisan support in Washington D.C. to ask that congress fully support LIHEAP nationwide at $4.7 billion, which is $1.7 billion more than what was appropriated last year. In a letter addressed to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Welch, King, and 146 lawmakers stressed the importance of LIHEAP among vulnerable populations, stating that "LIHEAP funding has been a lifeline during challenging economic times" for these families.
Sources: LIHEAP Clearinghouse, media report