Low Income Heating Assistance: A Hot Topic

The Maine GOP recently called for a one-day special session to redirect $10 million to increase funding for LIHEAP, and were joined in their request by at least one Green-Independent Senate candidate, who is running ads on the issue on Portland radio. Governor Baldacci is considering the idea. As Senate President Beth Edmonds notes in that article, however, it's really just a political stunt; the issue can be addressed more effectively in December when the new legislature is seated. The Bangor Daily News editorial board agrees.

At the same time, the Public Utilities Commission is taking steps to increase emergency assistance for low-income residents who use electric heat, and Senator Snowe is meeting with community groups in Eastern and Northern Maine to gauge the need for increased assistance.

The group that could do the most to fix this problem is the United States Congress, which provides the bulk of LIHEAP's funding. Unfortunately, when a bill for $2.5 billion in increased funding recently came up for a vote, it was filibustered by Senate Republicans. Snowe and Collins voted for the measure, but failed to get their colleagues to come along.

Looks like the best antidote to a cold winter may be 60 Democratic votes in the Senate.