Editorial: Apply early for heat assistance

Published 9:20 am Monday, November 8, 2010

A long, cold winter ahead for some?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program can literally be a lifesaver for some in this part of the Great White North. But it may not be able to help as many people this year.

The program is intended to help low-income people who can’t handle their energy and heating bills. Funding from the federal Health and Human Services office pays for their utility bills.

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This year, Minnesota is slated to received $64.8 million in funding for the program. Last year the state received $160 million in federal funds, helping 164,801 households in Minnesota.

Typically, the state receives one big allocation at the start of the year, and a smaller amount later in the year. As the figures above show, there is quite a drop in funding this year. We don’t think the demand is going to drop anytime soon. State unemployment rates continue to be high and the number of people who may qualify for assistance will remain high as well.

This is a first-come, first-served program, so people may want to start applying early.

We suspect that the fact Congress has not yet passed a budget for next year that Health and Human Services is being cautious with its allocations. The congress that is heading back to Washington for a couple of months after Tuesday’s election has a chance to rectify the situation. Maybe some of the financial bailout or economic stimulus money that hasn’t been spent yet can be diverted to this program.

— The Journal of New Ulm, Nov. 3