Federal shutdown could impact LIHEAP funds for heating season

9:26 PM, Oct 7, 2013   |    comments
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BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- The partial shutdown of the federal government could cause delays for Mainers looking for some heating help this winter.

Tens of thousands of families across the state count on federal heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program --- which is commonly known as LIHEAP. The program helps subsidize heating costs for low income families but right now it's not clear how much money it will be getting for this year.

Congress has not passed a definite amount for the LIHEAP program meaning for now agencies in the state say they don't know what to expect. LIHEAP funds are allocated to Maine through the Maine State Housing Authority. From there they're distributed through 9 state agencies.

Penquis serves LIHEAP applicants in three Maine counties including Penobscot County. So far officials with the agency say they've taken about 2,500 applications for heating assistance this year. They say they only expect that number to grow.

"We'd love to see people served before the winter hits and its cold," said Barbara Stone, who is the LIHEAP manager for Penquis, "but at this point we're not sure about the funding...when it will be received or how much we will receive so that does affect all our clients."

State officials say despite the shutdown they don't want people to get discouraged from applying for LIHEAP. Agencies around the state are continuing to take applications for the program.

The housing authority says LIHEAP funds will begin to be distributed hopefully by mid November.


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