- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The Trump administration has released the remainder of this year’s funding - $609 million - for a heating aid program it previously tried to kill.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine confirmed the funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association said it’s good timing because moratoriums on winter utility cutoffs are being lifted. He said the extra money will ensure low-income families aren’t left in the cold.

“It’ll really make a difference for families in crisis,” Wolfe said.

The Trump administration tried twice, and failed both times, to kill the program. The new budget even provides an extra $250 million.

All told, the $3.64 billion program has served about 6 million households in recent years. In addition to helping cold-weather states like Maine and Alaska, the program also helps people stay cool in blazing summer heat in states like Florida and Arizona.

The program remains popular despite Trump’s efforts to kill it. Trump contends it’s unnecessary and rife with fraud, but program supporters say he’s wrong on both counts.

The program is especially important in states like Maine that are heavily reliant on heating oil. Because heating oil is not regulated like electric and natural gas utilities, heating oil dealers are not bound to deliver to customers who cannot pay.

King and Collins said in statement that the funding “is a matter of health and safety for many low-income families and seniors.”

“This funding is welcome news as these programs remain important lifelines that help prevent vulnerable individuals from having to choose between heating their home, paying their bills, or going without food or medicine,” they said.

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