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LETTER: Man, that's cold

To the editor,

Details on President Donald Trump's 2019 budget were recently released. As a part of that that budget, the president proposes the elimination of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (EA).

The program, delivered locally by Lakes and Pines Community Action Council, serves more than 6 million households nationally and over 13,000 households in the seven-county area served by Lakes and Pines. This action would leave those households literally out in the cold.

A majority of the households served by Lakes and Pines are those of seniors, those with disabilities or households with young children.

A great number of the households that we serve are those of seniors that are hostage to rising fuels costs while they are on fixed incomes and just trying to stay in their homes as long as possible.

While a number of area households in the area are covered under the cold weather rule, which prohibits utilities from disconnecting service during cold-weather months, Lakes and Pines service area has the highest percentage of household on delivered fuels of anywhere in the state and afforded no such protections. This becomes a matter of life or death. Families must choose to heat or eat. Many turn to alternate heat, such as electric space heaters, not only raising overall costs for everyone in the long run, but also raising the risk of fire or carbon monoxide.

Not only did the Trump administration propose the elimination of the EA Program, but they doubled down and proposed the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). These funds, in addition to providing a number of critical services to low-income families, also provide funds that make it possible for community action agencies to deliver the EA Program. Without the CSBG funding, there would not be a viable agency within the service area to administer and deliver the EA Program.

We may win the battle, but lose the war. Even if the EA Program is saved, without CSBG, there would be nobody to deliver it to the households in east-central Minnesota.

Robert Benes

Executive director, Lakes and Pines CAC, Inc.

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