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Conklin Calls for Expansion of Heating-Assistance Program, Announces Re-Election Bid

by on January 30, 2014 1:24 PM

State Rep. Scott Conklin announced at a press conference Thursday he is drafting legislation that would expand a federal home-heating assistance program.

Afterward, he announced outside of his State College office his plan to run for re-election. He also says he's not ruling out a run for governor.

Over the next few weeks, Conklin says he will introduce legislation that would implement a severance fee for natural gas companies that would go into the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP. The program provides quick funds to low-income families to cover their heating costs.

Conklin says he is drafting the legislation after receiving numerous calls to his office from constituents who say they can't afford their heating costs. Currently, Pennsylvanians are eligible for the federally funded LIHEAP program; however, Pennsylvania does not contribute funds to the program.

Conklin says Pennsylvania should start contributing, like other states, including Alaska, so that more people can receive aid.

"What I'm asking is to do what other states do, that Pennsylvania will actually put money into that program... to allow those individuals who can't afford their heat to stay warm in their homes," says Conklin.

Conklin says his office is researching a "reasonable" fee structure to include in the legislation.

LIHEAP is a program that offers assistance in the form of a cash grant, sent directly to the utility company, or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat.

The fastest way to apply for assistance is online by clicking HERE. Residents can also call the LIHEAP Hotline at 866-857-7095.

Through the cash program, federal funds are distributed to residents with their heating bills. The average amount distributed this year is $228. This year, applications are down statewide for the cash program, according to Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare.

However, applications for crisis grants are up. This year, the state has received more than 45,600 crisis grant applications, which is up from 39,806 last year.

A crisis grant is for a resident who has a broken heating system, is in danger of being without fuel, or is at risk of having their utility service terminated. Grants range from $25 to $500. The average amount distributed this year is $468.

So far this year, the state has distributed roughly $78 million of $150 million in federal LIHEAP funds.

Conklin also announced Thursday that he will seek re-election describing his position as a "dream job."

As for another job, Conklin says he's "overwhelmed daily by the people asking me to get in" the governor's race. However, at least for now, that's not in his plans.

"For right now, for today, we're still concentrating on the house race," he says.

He also acknowledged he was approached regarding the job of president at Penn State. However, Conklin says he doesn't have a doctorate degree therefore is not qualified. 

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government. jenn.miller@statecollege.com
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