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Heating Assistance released targeted to most vulnerable families

CONCORD – Community Action Agencies will begin releasing Fuel Assistance Program benefits to New Hampshire families this week, targeting the limited dollars to those families in the lowest income brackets with the most difficulty in paying their fuel bills.

“With a 50 percent cut in federal funding, there are no easy choices,” said Joanne Morin, director of the state Office of Energy and Planning. “We looked at a number of options for stretching these dollars, and allocating them fairly.

“In order to protect the health and safety of New Hampshire citizens, we will target funding to families most vulnerable to being left out in the cold,” Morin said. “We will also continue to push President Obama and Congress to adequately fund heating assistance for struggling families.”

The federal government has cut funding for the Low Income Home Heating Program (LIHEAP) also known as the Fuel Assistance Program, nearly in half. Last year, New Hampshire received $34 million. This year, New Hampshire has only received $14.7 million.

In light of that significant reduction, the Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) is instructing the Community Action Agencies to release benefits first to those households below 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Those households between 125 percent and 200 percent Federal Poverty Guidelines will be placed on a waiting list pending further federal funding. All households up to the 200 percent Federal Poverty Guidelines will be eligible for emergency benefits if they are in a situation where they have no heat.

This program modification will require changes to the software that issues letters to fuel vendors. While these changes will be made as quickly as possible, it is likely that fuel vendors will not receive official notifications until next week. Going forward, the Office of Energy and Planning will monitor the program to ensure monies are available for emergencies as required by law, and may be forced to start a waiting list at a future date in order to ensure that adequate resources remain to address emergencies.

If you have any questions about your benefits, please call your local Community Action Agency.

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