Can government ease winter heating costs?

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State leaders say a key program that helps low-income Vermonters pay for
winter heat is at least $19 million short this year due to high fuel
prices. Agencies that provide low-income services say if the federal
government can’t provide the funds then the state needs to act. But
legislative leaders say there are no easy answers to the question of how
low-income Vermonters will pay their heating bills, and that the problem
extends to middle-income households and the small businesses that are
selling fuel, too. Senator Susan Bartlett, chair of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, and Tim Searles, executive director of the
Champlain Office of Economic Opportunity, look at whether federal and
state government can ease the concern about heating costs.

Also in the program, could geothermal heat be an energy source for
Bellows Falls? A source of warm groundwater was recently discovered
underneath the bedrock there. Hydrologist Meddie Perry explains how the
town could tap the energy source. (Listen)

And we visit Townsend, nestled in the
West River Valley and chartered in 1753. It’s part of our ongoing series
of audio postcards from Vermont towns. (Listen)


Listener comments:

I just received my pre-buy contract. For 620
gallons it is $3391.50 at $4.59/gal. Last year it was only $1484.00,
which is a change of $ 1907.50, over twice the cost! I’m lucky I can
"afford" it, but many people will go cold this winter.

Margaret in Norwich:
When you talked about how restrictive the Vermont program is income wise, you failed to mention that not only is it restricted to only 125% of poverty, but there is also a VERY restrictive asset test. First you need to think about what 125% of poverty is – for a one person household this is only just over $1000 a month! The state currently allows only $5,000 in assets for an individual. This need to change, especially for elderly and disabled people living on social security. The only way you can keep a roof over your head with only $1,000 a month income is to live on savings. The state seems to want to make us homeless before they will let us be eligible for LIHEAP.
When I have asked the State to eliminate or increase the asset test, they say they don’t have enough money to let more people into the program.

Elizabeth in Burlington:
We are taking the wrong view of weatherization. It is a great opportunity to restart the housing economy, if we think of it as investing in out-of-work construction and contracting professionals. Inner city homes tend to be old and leaky, but owned by people who can’t afford to fix them up. What a great way for the feds to restart the economy without just sending checks.

Greg in Addison County:
(The prices) simply indicate just how totally unprepared the Douglas administration has been when it comes to planning for Vermont’s energy future. The list of repeated failures is endless. A large number of Peak Oil advocates around the state have been trying to warn state and local officials about the dangers of Peak Oil for years now, but for the most part they have been ignored. Now, lacking any real preparation, the state is faced with a limited number of unattractive options that are reactive, rather than proactive. Too bad. Vermonters are going to pay the price, literally, for this failure.



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