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LIHEAP Funds OK'd for Energy Costs

$845 million to help low-income households

More households need help

Last year, LIHEAP provided assistance to a record 8.9 million households, an increase of 54 percent since 2008. For the 2012 fiscal year, 9.4 million households are projected to receive aid, officials say.

Of those recipients, 20 percent are veterans, a substantial increase from the 12 percent seeking assistance since 2008, officials say. Most of those veterans, 64 percent, are age 60 or over; 36 percent are under 60.

At a time when unemployment is high and "more are entering the ranks of poverty, we will not accept significant reductions" in funding to LIHEAP, Sanders said in the news conference. "We don't want to see people [faced] with the choice to heat their homes for winter or buy food ... or prescription drugs."

In New England and in other areas where heating oil is the primary fuel used, residents can expect to shell out the most they've ever paid to heat their homes, according to a new AARP report based on government data.

Households headed by people 65-plus will likely pay some $300 more over last year's cost of $3,058. Ann McLarty Jackson, who coauthored the report for AARP's Public Policy Institute, says average heating oil costs "are forecast to be higher than for any winter on record."

"Older households using fuel oil will face a greater financial burden in heating their homes than those heating with natural gas or electricity," she says.

Georgia funds already spent

In Georgia, community organizer groups that distribute LIHEAP payments to families announced on the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority website in November that federal funds had already been depleted. LIHEAP is offered to older people and people with disabilities first, starting Nov. 1, then to the public on Dec. 1.

"Funds are already spent. Thousands of families will not receive financial assistance to curtail the burden of paying heating bills," the website says.

Next: A public health problem. >>

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