States Seek More Energy Aid

With households facing a winter of record high heating costs, state energy officials from across the country were in Washington today urging Congress to increase funding for energy assistance improvements to homes and for assistance to low-income families having trouble paying utility bills.

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With households facing a winter of record high heating costs, state energy officials from across the country were in Washington today urging Congress to increase funding for energy assistance improvements to homes and for assistance to low-income families having trouble paying utility bills.

The National Association of State Energy Officials is asking for $245.5 million in funding for the federal weatherization assistance program in the 2008 budget, a 20 percent increase over this year. The Bush administration has proposed a $100 million cut in the program for 2008. Meanwhile, 38 senators, a bipartisan group mainly from cold-weather states, are pushing for an additional $1 billion in funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

That would come on top of the $2.4 billion included in the 2008 funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, which has been vetoed by the president. Congressional negotiators are working on a new version of the bill that would contain at least some of the cuts the president is seeking. But the move to add $1 billion more in spending to the bill may have political momentum going into an election year, when the Energy Information Administration estimates households will spend 10 to 26 percent more this winter for heating.

In the presidential battleground state of Iowa, state Energy Assistance Director Jerry McKim says, there are 18,000 households facing a heatless winter because their utilities were disconnected during the summer for failure to pay bills. Today's high temperature in Des Moines was expected to be 28 degrees, with more snow on the way.

—Marianne Lavelle