As winter draws near, fuel assistance officials urge those who need subsidized heating oil to apply now to avoid being left out in the cold.
The warnings come as word from lawmakers in Washington is that New Hampshire will not receive any increased funding for fuel assistance this winter.
But the good news is that the amount won’t decrease, either.
“We are hearing there is a continuing resolution that would fund it the same as last year,” said Celeste Lovett, fuel assistance program manager for the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.
That’s means the Granite State should once again receive $26 million in federal fuel aid, she said. But that compares to $36 million in each of the two previous years and $50 million the year before that, Lovett said.
Federal funding of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, has taken a hit in recent years.
Congressman Charles Bass, R-N.H., blames President Barack Obama, saying he only included $3 billion for the program in his budget proposal compared to the $3.5 billion Congress appropriated last year.
Bass said this week he co-sponsored legislation that would prevent New Hampshire and other cold-weather states from reductions in fuel assistance.
“Winter is soon approaching and the time is now to ensure there is sufficient funding to help struggling families pay their high heating bills this year,” Bass said in a statement.
While some people may not even be thinking of those snowy winter months yet, others are. They live in the 9,369 households in the state that have already applied and received approval for fuel assistance from the state office.
The number may seem high, but it is pretty typical for this time of year, Lovett said.
And Lovett and Louise Bergeron, energy director for Southern New Hampshire Services, said those who know they will need help and haven’t applied should do so soon.