January 3, 2012 -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders announced last week that the state would add $6.1 million to the state's LIHEAP to help ensure Vermonters can afford to heat their homes and stay warm this winter.
"We should not let vulnerable Vermonters freeze in their homes this winter season," Gov. Shumlin said. "The state will provide the additional funding to help ensure every Vermonter stays warm. In addition, we will review the program to find ways of ensuring that heating assistance is sustainable in future years."
The state's $6.1 million will be added to the federal LIHEAP allocation of $19.5 million and other available funds, increasing the average annual benefit per household to about $935. Of the state's share, $5.1 million will come from funds the legislature set aside in anticipation of federal cuts, and $1 million from a projected year-end carry-forward in the non-ARRA funded weatherization program.
The Governor, Lieutenant Governor and legislative leaders made the decision to provide a projected 8 percent increase in the average fuel assistance benefit after Congress finalized this winter's LIHEAP numbers. That 8 percent figure was selected following a government report that projects home heating expenditures will increase by that amount this heating season.
Despite efforts by Vermont's Congressional delegation, federal LIHEAP funding will likely be about $8 million less than last year. Vermont received $27.6 million in fuel assistance from the federal government for heating assistance last year, providing an average benefit of $866. This year Vermont expects to receive $19.5 million.
Gov. Shumlin said Vermont taxpayers cannot be expected to cover all of the federal LIHEAP shortfall, "So we must take a hard look at what can be done to make sure our fuel assistance program is sustainable."
He directed the Commissioner of Department of Children and Families and the fuel assistance office to do a rapid and thorough study of steps Vermont can take to enhance the sustainability of a fuel assistance program (including eligibility, how the state pays dealers, other possible sources of revenue, etc.) and report the possibilities to the administration and the legislature by the end of the 2012 legislative session.
Source: Governor's office