One day I was sitting in Rutland, waiting for my truck to be
inspected, so I picked up a few local papers. I flipped through
them until I came across an article titled "Changes in Vermont's
Winter Fuel Assistance Program." This peaked my interest as I am
permanently disabled and survive on food stamps, my disability
check and my fuel assistance. I live alone w/my pets in Mendon, Vt.
where I have a small business start-up called Second Wind
Creations, growing slowly. I, being an activist and an advocate for
the Vermont Center for Independent Living (V.C.I.L.), knew I had to
do something. I rushed home and started making calls.
The article said this: Heating fuel dealers that participate in
the Vermont Fuel Assistance Program can expect several changes this
coming winter. The existing rule that allows dealers to use 17
percent of the current fuel benefit to pay for a customer's back
balance will likely be eliminated. There is also a proposal to
limit crisis fuel to one delivery if a customer receives seasonal
fuel assistance and two deliveries if they do not. What is not
going away is the fuel dealer discount, which last year was set at
10-cents per gallon or the dealer's cash discount, whichever was
Oil and propane dealers will not be alone. The largest fuel
assistance supplier in the state will also have to lower their
prices for fuel assistance customers. Section 13 of Act 136
requires the Public Service Board to ensure that Vermont Gas
Systems provides a discount to their fuel assistance customers,
just as heating oil and propane marketers have done since 2008.
However, it is unclear if that discount will be set by the Public
Service Board in time for the 2012-2013 heating season.
Several other changes that were expected have been delayed
another year. The fuel assistance office had considered a margin
over rack leveraging program to dictate the price charged to fuel
assistance customers, however, this is no longer under
consideration for this winter. Also delayed are the much discussed
fuel assistance "web portal" and payment after delivery system. The
web portal would eliminate refund reports and allow the state to
pay dealers after they deliver, not before. While there won't be a
web portal this winter, the fuel assistance office is going all
digital. In November, participating fuel dealers will receive a
password protected email with a spreadsheet showing their fuel
assistance customers and benefit amount, along with lump sum
payment from the fuel assistance office. At the end of the season,
dealers will e-mail back a spreadsheet showing how the funds were
accounted for. An early projection for the 2012-2013 heating season
puts the average fuel assistance benefit at $543 per home. This is
compared to the $900 per home average last winter.
Why the decrease? Congress is expected to hold the line on
funding at $3.4 billion, of which approximately $19.5 million goes
So, to make a long story short: there will be a march to the
State House in Montpelier at 12-noon Sept. 8 called Running on
Empty in Vermont to try to make a difference. I invite all
Vermonter's who are unhappy with the cuts.
Senator's Leahy and Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch and Governor
Shumlin are fighting the cuts but the president seems locked in
there. Until we see it in writing, I do not think we can rely on
any changes being made. I am hoping these efforts will help to
guarantee a second check in January, 2013 for all people who rely
on fuel assistance.
For more information, to join or sponsor call 802-747-9944 or