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Putting the Heat on Congress – to Keep the Heat On in Oregon

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 By Chris ThomasContact
February 7, 2008

Portland, OR – The heat is on in Congress to help Oregonians, and others, pay this winter's heating bills. A new amendment to the House version of the economic stimulus package would add $1 billion for energy assistance, which includes $6.6 million for Oregon. It was introduced on Wednesday by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

Jim Abrahamson, coordinator of the Oregon Energy Partnership, says he'd normally call such legislation a long shot -- but perhaps not this year.

"The way things are working now, with the increase in the prices that we've seen for oil heat and the fact that this is a political season, I think it adds some juice to the possibility of getting increased funding."

Abrahamson says it appears that Oregon will run out of money long before it runs out of snow this year. In January, the state received almost $2 million for emergency assistance to pay heating bills, all of which has already been committed. Many Oregon counties report they're already out of federal funds from the "Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program" (LIHEAP).

"Agencies have either run out of funding for LIHEAP or are close to running out of funding. In other words, they've already obligated their existing LIHEAP funding to clients that are coming in for appointments and qualification over the next few weeks."

There are other programs run by individual utility companies, but Abrahamson says the advantage of the federal funding is that it can be used to pay for any type of heat. Research (from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association) indicates three-fourths of the households that receive the federal help have annual incomes below $15 thousand.

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