Lawmakers and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell have been quarreling since September about what they will do if the federal government doesn’t fund the low income heating assistance program at the same level it did last year. But the battle to find $38 million may be over if the U.S. Senate agrees with the House.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Wednesday evening that calls for 2009 funding levels to be maintained, which means the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will be funded at $5.1 billion. Connecticut will receive about $96 million plus any contingency funds should they be allocated.
Rep. John Geragosian of New Britain welcomed the news, but remained cautiously optimistic knowing it still has to pass the U.S. Senate.
His optimism was shared with Rell who was asked about the funding at an event in Branford this morning.
“It’s really good news for us, of course it still has to get through the Senate,” Rell said Thursday. “It certainly helps us in closing the gap.”
The gap the state anticipated was about $38 million and last month Rell sent lawmakers a two-page list of spending cuts to consider if they were interested in closing the expected LIHEAP gap. The cuts included everything from canceling the expansion of Shoreline East rail service, reducing municipal grant programs, eliminating a program for homeless youth which has yet to even get off the ground, suspending mileage reimbursement for judges, and several other items.
After advocates for many of those programs cried foul, Rell told them that it was just a list.
“These are not recommendations that I endorse or support, but they are simply a list of items that they need to have in order to start the discussion,” she said on Nov. 29.
It’s likely if the U.S. Senate doesn’t pass the resolution, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration will be in place before the issue is resolved and will be tasked with finding the funds to continue the program which Rell has said will run out of money before the end of the month.
“Home heating assistance is critical to the safety and comfort of the Connecticut citizens who need the help the most,” Malloy said Thursday. “I urge the U.S. Senate to pass the funding necessary, as the U.S. House of Representatives has, to keep this program intact.”