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Maine's low-income heating oil program gets $6.5 million boost in federal spending bill

Consumer Prices
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
Daniel DiDonato, a deliveryman for Heatable, brings heating oil to a home in Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.

Maine is slated to receive additional federal funding to help low-income residents heat their homes.

The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, recently passed by Congress, contains another $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Maine will receive $6.5 million of that sum, bringing the state's total federal LIHEAP funding to $50 million for the current winter.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, both of Maine, announced the additional allocation on Friday.

Heating oil and kerosene prices are dramatically high this winter, meaning LIHEAP money won't buy as many gallons as last year.

State lawmakers are expected to vote this week on an emergency budget bill that contains an additional $50 million for home heating assistance programs while sending $450 "relief checks" to more than 800,000 Maine taxpayers.

“This additional funding for LIHEAP comes at a critical time for Maine families,” Collins and Golden, who had pushed for additional funding during the budget negotiations, said in a joint statement. “We strongly advocated for this increase for LIHEAP to help compensate for the record high fuel prices that are straining households’ budgets. This much-needed funding will help to ensure that seniors on fixed incomes and other Mainers in need have the resources necessary to keep their homes warm this winter.”

Community assistance programs that help administer LIHEAP and other heating programs have reported unprecedented demand headed into winter.

Roughly 60% of Maine households depend on heating oil to warm their homes, which is the highest rate in the country. Heating oil prices were averaging $4.50 a gallon statewide last week compared with $3.13 for the same week in 2021, according to data compiled by the Governor's Energy Office.

Kerosene, meanwhile, was averaging $6.35 a gallon last week, which is more than 70% higher than last year.