Legislature enacts Curry bill to help Mainers access heating assistance

Sat, 04/09/2022 - 12:30pm

    AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate voted earlier this week to enact a bill from Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, to reduce barriers Mainers face in accessing heating assistance.

    LD 1966, “An Act To Facilitate Access to Heating Assistance,” received unanimous, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House.

    “When someone reaches out for heating assistance in the bitter cold of a Maine winter, they should be able to trust that help will get to them in a timely manner,” said Sen. Curry. “Unfortunately, this season, we heard far too many stories of Mainers waiting weeks or even months to get the heating aide they qualified for and needed. It turns out, one of the biggest hurdles in the way was outdated bureaucratic red tape.”

    LD 1966 would require the Maine State Housing Authority to adopt rules for the administration of its fuel assistance program that require local program operators and administrators — particularly the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP — to accept online applications.

    Local Community Action Programs administer applications for HEAP. The current process of applying for HEAP has created a bottleneck for applicants, with far too many Mainers waiting months to receive the assistance they need and qualify for.

    A committee amendment added an emergency clause to the bill, meaning that it would go into effect immediately upon becoming law.

    “I was proud to sponsor this bill to get bureaucracy out of the way for Maine people, and I’m grateful to my fellow legislators for supporting this bill,” commented Sen. Curry. 

    LD 1966 now goes to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to either sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.