Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the release of almost $8 million in energy assistance for 14 states. Strangely enough, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota were not included in those 14 states. Three very cold states who deal with very long winters were left out of some much needed assistance with no explanation.Aid is being given to those states who make the greatest use of fuel oil? That doesn't make sense. The program is designed to assist low income people with their energy needs. Period. It doesn't favor one source of energy over another. Here are the details:
The funding comes from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which is a federally funded program to help low income households with their heating bills. [...]
Between the amount of low income families in the area and the high heating costs we are sure to have this winter, there is no reason for Michigan, and other cold states, to be excluded from the $8 million given in assistance.
According to HHS, the aid is being given to those states “in which low-income households make greatest use of fuel oil to heat their homes.”
This is their reasoning for leaving us out — most Midwestern states use natural gas instead. There should be something done to look again at this decision and Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin’s Gov. Jim Doyle are urging President Bush to reverse this unfair decision.
The LIHEAP statute authorizes HHS to assist eligible households in meeting the costs of home energy, which is defined as a source of heating or cooling in residential dwellings. Households are eligible under Federal standards when incomes do not exceed the greater of 150 percent of the poverty level for their state or 60 percent of the state median income. However, states may set income limits as low as 110% of the poverty level. The law requires benefits to be targeted to households with the highest energy costs in relation to income and household size. [emphasis added]Natural gas futures recently plunged 10% to a two-year low after U.S. government data showed record supplies - and they are more than 50% lower than a year ago - but analysts are saying consumers should not breathe too easily just yet:
During the last four years, for example, funds were released to provide heating assistance to offset extreme cold, price spikes in heating oil, propane and natural gas and to cover the additional cooling costs in the Midwest during a prolonged summer heat wave.
For starters, a lot still depends on the weather this autumn and winter. "When it's cold out, prices go up and consumers use more," said Wachovia Securities economist Jason Schenker.Natural gas may have fallen, but so has oil. The energy assistance should be available to ALL people who qualify under the program's guidelines. It shouldn't matter what type of energy they use to heat their homes or where they live.
And because utilities purchase fuel throughout the year, it is the average price they pay -- not the lowest price -- that gets passed along to customers, said Paul Wilkinson, a vice president at the American Gas Association. For this reason, Wilkinson said consumers should expect modest, not major, savings.
Maybe Grahholm should invite our "compassionate" president to spend the winter here in Michigan. I recommend Mohawk in the Upper Peninsula where a record total snowfall of 390.4 inches was set in the winter of 1978-1979.