President Trump's budget would cut heating help for low income Ohio housing

BRECKSVILLE, OH (WOIO) - President Donald Trump's budget proposal would defund many federal programs, including the Home Energy Assistance Program. In Ohio, more than 400,000 households receive assistance from that program -- nearly $90 million each year.

The president's proposal specifically cites HEAP, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, saying that the program is lower impact and unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.

“I’m not sure what performance outcomes they've saying they're not seeing,” said Melissa Pearce, the president and CEO of Community Action of Wayne and Medina Counties.
Her agency is one of the local organizations that connects low income families with HEAP and other assistance programs. 
“The folks that were helping are people who are from really every walk of life,” said Pearce.
She went on to say that her group sees a lot of “situational poverty” -- like when someone unexpectedly loses a job rather than generational poverty.
“You're seeing a lot of different faces of people who are struggling economically and sometimes a little bit of help goes a long way,” said Pearce.
She said just last year her organization helped about 9,000 households in Medina and Wayne counties.

One person who received HEAP assistance in Medina county was Dale Reich. He’s an air force veteran who served his country during the Vietnam War, and now he’s on a fixed income and needs some help. He said without HEAP assistance, next year “will be a very cold winter.” He said he lives on a fixed income, and even with HEAP help, “it's very hard to put food on the table.” 

“These are the choices they're making, ‘What bills can I pay this month? What bills can I be late on and maybe try to catch up the next time?' it's like there's never enough money,” said Pearce.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Ohio served more than 400,000 households and doled out nearly $90 million in assistance this past year. Without federal funding, Pearce said she doesn’t see how state or local agencies could provide a similar level of assistance to families in need.

“I think it's just very easy to say, let someone else take care of it, but if they don't have any other money I just don't see how that's gonna happen,” said Pearce.
Reich said he sees potential cuts to HEAP not just as a major problem for him, but as the first domino that could fall.
“Eventually it will work its way down into the welfare situations and into the welfare systems and counties and states will have to provide more benefits as the federal government takes them away,” said Reich.
Cleveland 19 reached out to the Ohio Development Services Agency, the state agency that awards the federal HEAP funds. A spokesperson said that it is too early in the budget process to speculate on what funds the state may or may not receive next year.

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