Thursday, 18 January 2018 16:51

Federal government shutdown could affect state fuel assistance programs Featured

Written by

STATEWIDE - The looming government shutdown could have impact thousands of Mainers who receive fuel assistance funding.

Time is ticking as the federal government edges closer to a shutdown because Congress can't agree on short-term funding.

Most Mainers wouldn't feel an impact if the government shuts down, but those who benefit from fuel assistance may be in trouble.

"We would hate for anything to interrupt it, especially with the cold snaps we've been having," said Jennifer Giosia, director of energy and housing services at Penquis in Bangor.

The low-income home energy assistance program, also know as LIHEAP, is funded through the federal government, with funds dispersed through the Maine State Housing Authority.

The good news - about 90 percent of LIHEAP funding has been dispersed.

"We've been fully funded for the year, but the state has to pull down the money to make the payments, and if the government does shut down, we may not be able to make those payments in a timely manner," said Giosia.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R- 2nd CD) sent a letter to House leadership, noting the effect a stop in LIHEAP funding could have on the elderly.

"Lots of seniors are living in conditions that could be dangerous to them during this very cold weather, so we have to be careful, and we've got to stay warm. We've got to keep the government funding to make sure there's no disruption to our LIHEAP funding," said Rep. Poliquin.

Without timely payments, thousands of LIHEAP customers in the Penquis region may not get their fuel deliveries.

But those at Penquis say it's hard to be sure a government shutdown would actually put a wrench in their plans.

And as of right now, they say there's no need to panic.

"We don't want there to be a massive amount of people calling saying 'I need my fuel assistance right now,'" Giosia said.

Even so, the fuel assistance program is only supplemental funding, and not meant to pay for the entire season.

"People need to start thinking of alternative ways that, if they do get low or need to get fuel, where are there other areas they can check with," Giosia said.

But the Penquis fuel assistance department is working on a plan in case the government does shut down, just in case.

Kayla Fish

[email protected]

Kayla joined the ABC 7 & FOX 22 news team in May of 2017. She got into journalism because she loves talking with people, and she's incredibly grateful to share the stories of Mainers throughout the region.

She got...