Committees vote to restore heating assistance

State Rep. Len Greene (R-105). FILE PHOTO

HARTFORD — During a meeting this week, three legislative committees voted unanimously to change Gov. Dannel Malloy’s recommendation on how to distribute federal block grant funding the state receives for home heating assistance.

State Rep. Len Greene (R-105) announced Tuesday the vote of the Appropriations, Energy, and Human Services committees. Greene is a member of the Energy and Technology Committee.

According to a news release issued by Greene’s office, Malloy planned to restrict the program, known as LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Plan), to only those families using home heating oil or propane to heat their homes. Such a restriction, the release stated, would have eliminated eligibility for more than 80,000 Connecticut families that were eligible to receive heating assistance last winter.

“The bi-partisan agreement we reached (Tuesday) is great news for families across Connecticut who will struggle to heat their homes this winter,” Greene said in the release. “We felt cutting such an important program was the wrong approach, especially in this difficult economic time where people are out of work and already struggling to pay their bills. Restoring eligibility to this vital program to include more Connecticut families was the right thing to do.”

The agreement ensures that families that fall below 60 percent of the state median income are eligible for heating assistance regardless of what fuel they use to heat their homes, the release stated. Across Connecticut, 52 percent of households use home heating oil for heat, 29 percent use natural gas, 15 percent use electricity and 4 percent use other sources.

Had this agreement not been reached, the release stated, 44 percent of the state would have been instantly excluded from heating assistance.

“This is a public safety issue and it is absolutely vital for those on fixed incomes, particularly seniors who are struggling in this economy,” Greene said in the release. “The LIHEAP program is a lifeline to many and I’m proud we we’re able to do what’s right for them.”