Despite the summer heat, Richard Perkins, an 86-year-old from Portland, Maine, already has to worry about how he’s going to keep from freezing come winter—thanks to President Donald Trump.
Trump has decided to end heating aid for low-income Americans, believing that it is no longer necessary, and filled with fraud. According to Trump, Americans don’t need to worry about the cold because utility companies can’t just cut off customers when it gets too cold.
Except that they can.
So far, there is no proof that there is a fraud issue in the service. As far as shutting off utilities, different states have different guidelines, but they don’t cover heating oil—a primary source of energy in New England during harsh winters. It’s a crucial lifeline to keep people from freezing to death. “It’s beyond my thinking that anyone could be that cruel,” said Perkins.
Already, the proposal to end the program is being challenged. Six million households used the program last winter. Forty-three senators from cold-weather states signed a letter urging the top Republican and Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee to keep funding the Low-Income House Energy Assistance Program.
In Maine alone, the program helped 77,000 people last winter—less than a quarter of those eligible for the assistance, according to Deborah Turcotte of MaineHousing.
Perkins, who not only doesn’t have the income for heating but also needs to take blood thinners. Without heat, he might have to leave Maine. “I was born and raised here,” he said. “Maine is part of me. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
The program affects mostly the northern states, blue voters who will suffer if Trump decides to defund the program.