AUGUSTA — A bill from Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, to reduce barriers Mainers face in accessing heating assistance received approval from the Labor and Housing Committee.

LD 1966, “An Act To Facilitate Access to Heating Assistance,” received unanimous, bipartisan support from members present Tuesday, March 8.

“Heating prices have skyrocketed this year,” Curry said in a press release. “As more Mainers are reaching out for help, our systems aren’t keeping up. That means too many people are waiting months to get the relief they need and qualify for.

“This bill may seem like a technical change, but it cuts unneeded red tape and gets government bureaucracy out of the way for Maine people,” he said.

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 LIHEAP — to accept online applications.

Local Community Action Programs administer applications for LIHEAP. The current process of applying for LIHEAP has created a bottleneck for applicants, with far too many Mainers waiting months to receive the assistance they need and qualify for. The committee amendment adds an emergency clause to the bill, meaning that it would go into effect immediately upon becoming law.

Maine Community Action Partnership and Maine Equal Justice also testified in favor of the bill.

LD 1966 now faces votes before the Senate and House.

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