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Written by AJ Douglas

STATE:Governor Mills’ primary heating and housing plan was blocked by Senate Republicans earlier this month. Now, like-minded Democrats and Republicans have announced temporary appointments to the Legislature’s Appropriations and Finance Committee.

That committee is preparing for its first public hearing to review the winter emergency energy assistance package.

That session is scheduled for Wednesday.

“I always support the public hearing process. The fact that I don’t think anybody understands that we’re in a real heating crisis here across the state,” said Senate President Troy Jackson.

The energy package will consist of $398 million to fund one-time energy payments of $450 to households that meet income requirements, the same as the $850 for assistance checks.

Jackson said the Senate had previously rejected an energy aid package because of a lack of public comment on the proposal.

“After this public hearing process on Wednesday, I hope that we will come together and actually do something meaningful for people across the state,” Jackson said.

During the week of December 12, about 13,000 households received lump sum payments of $500 for homeowners over age 65 who meet special requirements of $18,000 for individuals and $20,000 in income.

“We know that if people can’t keep warm, especially if they’re older or younger, they’re more likely to get sick. They end up with preventable illnesses that can lead to high doctor costs or even hospitalization or nursing home admissions for seniors,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

Maine DHHS is working to complement the governor’s initiative to provide financial assistance for heating costs as prices hit record highs.

“To make sure we both provide relief to a broad sense of Maine, as in the governor’s plan. Providing our elderly residents with this immediate one-time relief on a short-term basis,” Lambrew said.

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