MONTPELIER – Worries over heating oil subsidies for low-income Vermonters haven't cooled off, and three House committees are planning a hearing Dec. 13 to tackle the issue, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Reduced federal aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, rising oil costs, and greater need are combining to create the potential for a tough winter for low-income Vermonters, said Rep. Tony Klein, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
The hearing will be a way to make sure the state programs related to heating, such as home weatherization, are coordinated well so the state is getting the most bang for its limited bucks, said Klein.
“My understanding is these programs don't coordinate very well with each other, and that just seems silly to me,” Klein said, a Democrat from East Montpelier. Klein said he may be corrected on that point during the hearing.
Gov. Peter Shumlin announced earlier this month he was transferring $2.5 million from a weatherization program to help with fuel oil subsidies.
Klein was critical of that move.
“That doesn't make sense to me,” Klein said. “You take it from the program that helps you use less.”
Shumlin said the money would be paid back, but Klein said he's “not going to hold is breath” on that one.
The three House committees scheduled to meet are Natural Resources and Energy, Human Services, and Ways and Means, said Klein.
The tax committee is involved “because we're going to have to look at revenue raising to supplement” cuts in LIHEAP, said Klein.
— Thatcher Moats