WASHINGTON — Citing the ice storm that paralyzed northern New England and New York, lawmakers from the region are planning to ask President Clinton to release $215 million in emergency heating aid for low-income people.
“The situation in New England is severe — and does not look likely to ease in the next week or two,” Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., said Wednesday. “Families need help. They will need heating assistance when power is returned to their homes, and the demand is going to be great.”
Chafee has drafted a letter to Clinton that, as of Wednesday, had been signed by 15 senators. He plans to send the letter next week after trying to draw support from outside the Midwest and Northeast, areas where the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has traditionally been popular.
Early signers included: Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; James Jeffords, R-Vt.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y.; Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y.; Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.; John Glenn, D-Ohio; Herb Kohl, D-Wis.; and Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill.
“We urge you to act quickly so that states can make the most efficient use of the funds and can assist families in the traditionally colder months of January and February,” the senators wrote.
President Clinton has authorized the release of emergency funds for LIHEAP for each of the past three winters. The program helps 5.6 million poor households nationwide pay heating bills.
In January 1997, Clinton released $215 million in emergency funding after bitter cold hit Northern states. Congress has made up to $300 million available for emergency release this year.