Congressional delegation scrambling on home heating assistance

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(Host) As temperatures drop in Vermont, so does the amount of money needy residents could get to help heat their homes.

Vermont’s congressional delegation is scrambling to pass home heating assistance legislation.

Eric Niiler has more from Washington.

(Niiler) More than 20,000 low-income Vermont households got federal money this year to heat their homes. But with oil costing more and planned budget cuts, they may be left out in the cold in 2008.

Congress passed a bill with the money, but President Bush vetoed it and Democrats didn’t have enough votes to override it.

Now Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch are introducing new legislation in the House and Senate.

"The Keep Americans Warm Act of 2007" would add a billion dollars in funding to provide heating for the elderly, disabled, and low income families.

Sanders says needy families need help because the price of energy is skyrocketing.

(Sanders) "Many Vermont families have been paying an incredible $3.47 a gallon for heating oil and as much as $3.71 a gallon for kerosene this year."

(Niiler) Energy advocate Mark Wolfe agrees. He says even if money remained the same for 2008, fewer families would get the help they need.

(Wolfe) "A major concern of state-energy officers is the declining purchasing power of the program. This is large because federal funding has just not kept up with the rise in energy prices."

(Niiler) The bill faces many obstacles before passage. Congress is backed up with twelve spending bills, Iraq, and tax changes – all before Christmas.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Eric Niiler on Capitol Hill.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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