Program expects to serve 50,000 households this winterSeptember 14, 2006 - TRCGovernor Delivers First LIHEAP CheckPORTLAND – Governor John Baldacci today highlighted another way to keep Mainers warm this winter. The Governor and MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick delivered the first heating assistance payment of the 2006-07 heating season. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is one way that many Maine families meet a portion of their winter season energy needs. The Governor has made it a priority of his Administration to ensure all Maine people are able to stay safe and warm in their homes.Delivering the LIHEAP check to Giroux Oil Service Company, Inc., of Portland, and owners Steve, Bill, and Max Giroux, the Governor thanked them for their commitment to serve LIHEAP recipients. He noted the importance of the program to tens of thousands of Maine families.“We expect home heating costs will be more expensive this year than last, presenting a challenge to many Mainers,” said Governor Baldacci. “My Administration is continuing efforts to stretch our LIHEAP dollars, and to promote innovative programs to assist Maine people meet their heating needs.”This year the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will help an estimated 50,000 Maine households with an estimated $30 million in heating assistance payments. “Even with the announcement Tuesday of the federal government’s release of $7 million in emergency LIHEAP funds, the need remains great for Maine people,” said the Governor. “My Administration has advocated for additional LIHEAP funds, but we also are pursuing other initiatives.”Yesterday the Governor unveiled a new $7 million Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) to provides low interest rate energy improvement loans to Maine’s working families. In 2004, the Governor initiated Operation Keep ME Warm, a program that provides and with the help of volunteers installs energy efficiency materials in certain LIHEAP-eligible homes. Operation Keep ME Warm has set a goal of winterizing 3,000 homes between October 19th and 22nd.The Governor and the Legislature worked earlier this year to ensure that $5 million was available to Maine people who rely on LIHEAP. Governor Baldacci established a Keep Maine Warm Charitable Fuel Fund to raise additional funds for relief to Maine people in need. Additionally, the Governor has made energy conservation and investments in renewable energy a priority of his Administration.Director McCormick noted that some help for customers will come from the new LIHEAP pricing system that MaineHousing adopted this year. Rather than pay oil dealers the cash price for oil for LIHEAP deliveries, MaineHousing is giving dealers the option of using either a discount off their normal retail price, or a set amount over their wholesale price.“We estimate that the new pricing system will generate about 450,000 to 500,000 gallons of additional heating oil for LIHEAP customers,” McCormick said. McCormick said the actual LIHEAP funding for the 2006-07 season will not be known until Congress acts. Last year Congress did not settle the LIHEAP budget until February. People interested in seeking LIHEAP assistance should apply for it at their regional Community Action Program (CAP) agency. This year the CAPs started taking applications in the summer. MaineHousing anticipates that the CAP agencies will process about 90 percent of the applications by the end of December, generating up to $20 million in benefits. Read Online: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?id=23772&topic=Portal+News&v=article-2006NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.