Congress could cut back on heating assistance to the poor

John and Jeanne McElligott's house. The couple probably won't get home heating assistance this year.

Jeremy Hobson: Well tomorrow, the federal government releases its projections for how much heating fuels will cost this winter, just as Congress is considering
scaling back a program that provides heating assistance to the poor. That's a big issue in states like New Hampshire, which have long cold winters.

From New Hampshire Public Radio, Dan Gorenstein tells us how the Granite State is bracing for the cuts.


Dan Gorenstein: Congress is poised to cut as much as $1 billion from the program this year, leaving about two million households without aid. The reduction would come at a time when home heating oil is 80 cents a gallon more than a year ago.

Joanne Morin runs the energy assistance program in New Hampshire. She says her office could end up serving 5,000 to 10,000 fewer families.

Joanne Morin: There's a lot of strain on households and families in New Hampshire right now.

Jeanne McElligott: Abby, come here! Want a treat?

Eighty-year-old Jeanne McElligott, her husband John and their dog Abby live in a simple five-room ranch. The couple received a letter: Given the likely cuts, their monthly income of $2,696 is a few hundred too much to get help this year. The problem for the McElligotts is:

McElligott: John Hancock is $107. Electric is $74.76. The house insurance is $105.60.

Everything is up, except the pension money they live on. Jeanne says friends have suggested one way to cut back.

McElligott: People say to me, why do you keep the dog? Well, you have a dog for nine years, and you love her.

As for John McElligott, the World War II veteran never figured he'd spend these years considering whether to keep the family pet.

John McElligott: No, I expected my buddies from the Navy would be able to help all the other veterans.

Instead of helping other servicemen, the 88-year-old McElligott finds himself wondering about snowstorms and whether he can afford to fix his roof come spring.

In Concord, N.H., I'm Dan Gorenstein for Marketplace.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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