A bit of good news: increased federal heating aid
Amid the bleak landscape described in the previous post, there's a bit of good news:
1) the cost of heating oil, which threatened to pose another crisis this winter, has declined, at least for the time being, to a more manageable average of about $2.60 a gallon.
2) Federal heating assistance to RI is significantly up, to $38 million this year, from $20 million last year.
On November 3, Senators Reed and Whitehouse wrote to Governor Carcieri, inquiring about the status of the distribution of the federal aid.
I put this question to Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe, and here's part of her response, which I received last Friday:
We have programmed the $38 Million LIHEAP grant into the State Budget, executed the contracts and amendments with the CAP agencies and established the PO's through State Purchasing. Within the next two days OER will initiate a payment to the CAP agencies and if there is no delay or snag in the system they should receive LIHEAP program funds by the end of next week.
The LIHEAP's new data system contractor has just finished testing the "benefit letter and check writing" processes, and we are hopeful by the end of next week the CAPs will have printed the client benefit letters and vendor checks.
If all goes well, the first of the LIHEAP oil Primary grants will be released the week of Thanksgiving. This is a month earlier then last years first primary grant release.
In addition to the normal LIHEAP grants, the State created the Heat & Eat program, which would allow an additional 20,000 eligible families whose energy bills are folded into their rents to be eligible to receive $1 in LIHEAP funds. That $1 LIHEAP check automatically triggers an increase of food dtamps, $30 - 50 per month on average. Particpating families will see those additional food stamp dollars in their Decemberallotment, which traditionally has been provided the week of Thanksgiving to help with that holiday.