Vermont, Regional Officials Lobby For Heating Assistance

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(Host) A variety of officials around New England are lobbying Congress to make sure the low-income heating assistance program is funded.

Vermont’s top legislative leaders sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation pressing for as much money as possible.

They say fuel costs have risen 30 percent this year, so the need is more acute.

Governor Peter Shumlin joined his colleagues from around New England on a conference call to make the same point.

(Shumlin) "We need Congress to act quickly, this week, to appropriate low-income heating assistance, LIHEAP funds, for all of us in cold states, before they go home for the holidays.

(Host) Three committees of the Vermont House also took testimony from the public on the issue.

Carol Shephard of South Royalton says she kept her home thermostat set at 60 last year because she couldn’t afford more even with assistance.

She told lawmakers she now faces more reductions and she doesn’t have many choices.

(Shephard) "What do I give up. Because that’s what it’s going to come down to. Do I give up food?Do I not get my  prescriptions. How do I pay the lights? How about the phone that I need in case I need to call for 911?"

(Host) Shephard says she’s tried to cut back and she’s applied to live in senior housing. But says there haven’t been openings and she’s worried about the winter.

Jean Park owns a mobile home in Bennington. She testified to the committees over the telephone.

(Park) "When you’re 81 and loaded with arthritis and in constant pain you’ve got to have heat. And this old trailer has got to have heat, too, before it falls apart."    

(Host) Congress has been working on a major appropriations bill this week. It is aiming to complete the work before the holidays.

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