Vermonters struggling to make ends meet can receive wage supports like Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) fuel assistance to help pay for heating expenses—crucial for Vermonters during our cold winter months. This program is also directly linked to the 3SquaresVT program (also known as SNAP or food stamps) and eligible recipients of LIHEAP often receive a higher 3SquaresVT benefit to help make ends meet and put healthy food on the table. Vermont is among 17 states, including New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Oregon, that boosts the amount of 3SquaresVT benefits to those participants that also receive help from the federal LIHEAP, which serves nearly 44,000 households in Vermont. 22,065 of these households receiving LIHEAP are eligible to receive a boost in their 3SquaresVT benefit. 8,602 households include a senior member and 9,732 households include a disabled household member.
Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate all of the programs in the federal Health and Human Service’s Office of Community Services, including LIHEAP. If this cut happens, 22,065 Vermonters will see an average reduction of $60 in their food benefits. Losing $60 of food money a month would be a serious hardship for these families and would likely increase food insecurity across the state—plus all 44,000 Vermont recipients of LIHEAP will have to come up with extra money to pay for heat if the program is cut. With most low-income households running at a deficit each month (for example, a family of four with two working adults each making minimum wage will have an estimated $2,200 monthly shortfall), having their LIHEAP benefit cut, and in many cases their 3SquaresVT budget reduced too, will lead to even that much more food insecurity.
“At Hunger Free Vermont, we know that food is the most flexible part of the family food budget. In our cold winter months, Vermonters need heat and that will often take a priority over food. This means the quality of food can go way down, causing many health issues, and in some cases Vermonters will go without in order to keep the heat on,” said Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont. “With some of our most vulnerable—our senior adults, single moms, children, and those with disabilities—in households receiving LIHEAP, it is our responsibility to ensure all our neighbors have the heat and food they need to live, learn, and contribute to our communities.”