Winter in Maine can be a challenge for anyone. Our roads get icy, the snow seems never-ending and our temperatures plummet to subzero readings, particularly in the north. It is disturbing that as we head into the colder months, many Mainers will face additional challenges staying warm. AARP’s Public Policy Institute recently issued a report on winter heating costs and the news is not good.

According to the report, since the mid-1990s, home heating costs have outpaced the ability of many low-income consumers to adequately heat their homes. Current projections indicate that heat expenses will increase the most this year for households using fuel oil. Here in Maine, approximately three out of four residents use fuel oil to heat their homes. New England in general has the highest heating costs in the nation because heating oil is the primary heating fuel. For New England residents age 65 and older, the average winter cost in 2010-11 was $3,058. Projections indicate that for 2011-12, this will jump almost 10 percent.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funding across America, helping low-income households pay their utility bills. Sadly, the House Appropriations Committee has already proposed a huge cut to LIHEAP funding that will no doubt affect many Mainers in the coming months. In light of this proposal, it is AARP’s sincere hope that Gov. Paul LePage will consider directing part of the state budget toward helping low-income Mainers as they struggle to stay warm.

John Hennessy

AARP Maine Director of Advocacy

Portland


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