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State Braces for Cut to Fuel Aid

It’s that time of year when people light fires in the morning, or see their tomatoes glazed in frost. It won’t be much longer before the real cold comes. Last year, some 45,000 families around New Hampshire received some help paying their heating bills. But this winter, all signs point to a cut in federal fuel assistance.

The math is pretty simple, says Mark Wolfe with the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

“At this point both the House and Senate both call for a cut of about $1 billion dollars.”

He adds President Obama’s budget calls for a greater reduction than that.

Wolfe estimates a $1 billion dollar cut would mean about 2 million people around the country would go without fuel assistance this year.

The reduction would come at a time when the price of home heating oil is up 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 5-10 thousand fewer families.

“There’s a lot of strain on households and families in New Hampshire right now. It’s important to serve as many people and to give them as much help as we possibly can.”

80-year old Jeanne McElligott, her husband John and their dog Abby live in a simple five room ranch.

They’ve been notified- given the likely cuts- their monthly income of $2,696 dollars is a few hundred too much to get help this year.

The problem for the McElligotts is everything is up...except the pension money they live on.

Jeanne says friends have suggested one way to cut back.

“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 Navy veteran never figured he’d spend these years considering whether to keep the family pet.

“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.

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