Administrators of New Hampshire’s fuel assistance program received some heartwarming news this week — the state will not see any cuts in aid.
The $22.1 million received yesterday is two weeks late because of the federal government shutdown. But it’s at least the same amount awarded last year, according to Celeste Lovett, fuel assistance program manager for the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.
The state received additional money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in June, for a total of $24.3 million, Lovett said. New Hampshire is in line to receive that again, but won’t receive the final word for months.
The news comes in the wake of cuts to the program in recent years. New Hampshire received $26 million in fuel aid in 2011 — down from $36 million in each of the two previous years and $50 million the year before that.
But the government shutdown made some fuel assistance applicants nervous that they wouldn’t get the help they need before cold weather set in.
“There was a definite concern because we did receive calls about how it would affect us,” said Ryan Clouthier, energy director of Southern Hampshire Services.
Southern New Hampshire Services provides fuel assistance to residents of Rockingham and Hillsborough counties.
The delay prompted members of the U.S. Senate on Monday to request that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius release heating assistance money as soon as possible.
The senators include Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. The funding was released the next day.
“I welcome the release of critical LIHEAP funds that will help low income and families and seniors in New Hampshire stay warm,” Ayotte said. “With the cold winter season fast approaching, I will continue to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to release remaining LIHEAP funds as quickly as possible.”