Dear Sun Spots: Could somebody please tell me what is happening with the LIHEAP program? A lot of people are waiting and will run out of fuel before the funds are received. If people do not have the funds, this is going to be awful. I hope this will be taken care of real soon. – No Name, No Town.

Answer: As you may have noted in Thursday’s Sun Journal editorial by editorial page editor David Farmer, Maine can expect $24 million in federal heating oil assistance this year. It’s the same amount as last year. On Wednesday, lawmakers opened the 2006 session in Augusta with passage of a bill authorizing the MSHA $5 million to purchase additional heating fuel for eligible households. An estimated 50,000 households could benefit from the bill.

In addition, there is also a governor’s initiative to raise $5 million through private donations to increase the heat aid available.

And late Thursday, U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans from Maine, announced the release of $100 million in emergency funds from LIHEAP. Maine will receive $1,598,170 of this.

Each year, almost 5 million low-income households across the country receive LIHEAP assistance which provides a vital safety net for these households and works to help low-income families, senior citizens and disabled individuals maintain economic stability.

Those interested in applying for LIHEAP assistance should contact their local/state LIHEAP agency or click on the agency directory at:

In addition, while not a part of the LIHEAP program, column readers may also be interested in the Keep ME Warm program.

State Rep. Margaret Craven and Sen. Peggy Rotundo have worked with other Lewiston legislators, the “SeniorsPlus” Area Agency on Aging, and Bates Mill LLC to organize a fundraising program with the goal of contributing more than $12,000 to help low-income families in the Lewiston area heat their homes this winter.

Gov. Baldacci founded Keep ME Warm in response to $5 million in cuts made by the federal government to Maine for home heating assistance.

Craven and Rotundo, along with other Lewiston Democratic Reps. Elaine Makas, Lillian LaFontaine O’Brien and Will Walcott, have initiated two fundraising projects in the Lewiston area.

Legislators are working with Tom Platts and Pat Maiorino at Bates Mill LLC, a mixed commercial and retail development in downtown Lewiston, who had expressed interest in helping the Keep ME Warm effort. Bates Mill LLC has promised up to $5,000 in matching funds to donations from area businesses and individuals. An account has been established at Androscoggin Bank for donations to be mailed.

The delegation will also host the Charitable Fuel Fund Dinner at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 3. The event, coordinated along with SeniorsPlus, will feature entertainment, prizes and a lasagna dinner with salad and dessert. The cost is $5 per person, paid at the door, with all proceeds going to the Keep ME Warm initiative for Androscoggin County area families.

Anyone interested in making a donation to the cause may make checks to “Keep ME Warm Charitable Fuel Fund” and send them to: Androscoggin Bank, P.O. Box 1407, Lewiston, ME 04243, attention: Keep ME Warm Fund. You can specify that you want your donation to come back to your community.

For more information on these initiatives, contact Rep. Margaret Craven at 783-1897.

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