The state of Vermont will be receiving more than twice the money it usually receives to help low-income Vermonters heat their homes this winter, officials said Thursday.
The three members of the state's congressional delegation and Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont will receive about $49 million from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
Average benefits are expected to increase this year from $912 to $1,522 and cover 89% of an eligible household's seasonal fuel bill. Households may be eligible if their gross household incomes are equal to or less than 185% of the federal poverty level.
The assistance is expected to benefit about 18,000 Vermonters. Details can be found on the website of the Department for Children and Families.
In a typical year the state usually receives about $20 million for heating assistance. This year the funding was augmented by a one-time block grant from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The additional funds will increase fuel benefits, provide more money for weatherization services, including furnace repair and replacement and provide a one-time check of $400 to help people offset the cost of electric heat, Scott said.
“No Vermonter, no American, should have to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table or purchasing an essential medication,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a statement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, says he's proud of the increase in funding.
“We have a moral responsibility to make sure that no one in the state of Vermont goes cold in the winter time, and that’s exactly what we are doing by more than doubling federal LIHEAP funding,” Sanders said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said the pandemic has increased the need for more heating assistance money.
"I’ll continue to fight for the highest possible level of funding to make sure that the low-income, elderly and disabled Vermonters who rely on this program are supported in the coming months,” Welch said.