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New England Congressmen urge leaders to preserve home heating assistance

Massachusetts Congressmen Ed Markey and Jim McGovern and Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, pressed leaders in the House of Representatives Wednesday to protect federal home heating assistance for low-income residents from further cuts in the so-called “sequester.”

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and others, the New England Congressmen said that if broad-based federal cuts go forward on March 1, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that many people in the region rely on in winter could face an additional $177 million in cuts. That’s on top of $1.6 billion in reductions since 2010, they said.

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“Less funding, in the face of rising heating oil and natural gas prices, will have a devastating impact on millions of families already suffering through a slow economic recovery,” the lawmakers wrote. “No one should have to choose between heating and eating this winter. Yet for low-income families, veterans, and seniors who rely upon this program across the country, this choice is too often their harsh reality. We must ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable families continue to receive help.”

The Globe reported Wednesday that thousands of Bay State families are at risk of running out of heating assistance already this winter. Massachusetts has been allotted $132.7 million this year by the federal energy assistance program, down from $160 million last year. One local agency is asking the state Legislature to provide $21 million in additional funding to help people get through winter, particularly those who use oil to heat their homes.

Markey last week released a report on the effects of the sequester on Massachusetts, in which he said heat assistance funding would be cut by $6.7 million in the state.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.
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