(Host) People who qualify for Vermont’s low-income heating assistance program, known as LIHEAP, will be getting a bonus benefit in the new year.
By the end of January, most families enrolled in the program will see their benefit grow from $660 to $930.
That’s thanks to an additional 10-point-8 million dollars approved just before the lame-duck congressional session ended.
The money brings LIHEAP’s yearly funding level up to $25.6 million which is level with last year’s funding.
But the number of families enrolled in the program has grown significantly to 27,000 Richard Moffi is the state’s Fuel Assistance Program Chief. He says the down economy is partly responsible for that increase.
Moffi says a bigger factor is that the legislature expanded eligibility for the program last spring and created a two-tiered system.
Now, Moffi says, some higher income families who previously did not quality for the program are eligible for a small benefit.
(Moffi) Providing them with even a small benefit like $380 on average, allows them to get a little bit of help, hopefully stay out of crisis fuel assistance, and make their family budget stretch a little bit further during the difficult winter months.
(Host) Moffi says people who qualify under the old income level will be getting about 130-dollars less this year, and they’re dealing with higher fuel costs:
(Moffi) Fuel prices are up significantly from the same time last year, and we’re going to be seeing for the 85 percent of our families who heat with oil or propane or kerosene, they’re all paying more than $3 per gallon, and that takes a bite out of the limited funds that are available through the seasonal fuel assistance benefit.
(Host) People can apply for fuel assistance through the end of February by contacting the Vermont Department for Children and Families.
Fuel Assistance Program: 1-800-479-6151