WATERBURY Governor Jim Douglas and his regional counterparts are urging the federal government to increase federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding to $1 billion for the New England states this winter. In a letter sent to President Bush, Congressional leadership, and Senators McCain and Obama, the New England governors illustrate that the requested funding, a sharp increase from last years federal budget, is desperately needed to support low-income families in the upcoming heating season. They note that since the winter of 2005-2006, the price of home heating oil in New England has jumped 87%, and natural gas prices have also risen steeply. In order to deliver the same amount of fuel to New England eligible households as LIHEAP provided in 2005-06, assuming a likely increase in the number of households that will apply for needed assistance, LIHEAP funding for New England states would need to be increased to $1 billion. Many Vermont familiesindeed, many New England familiesrely on the heating assistance provided by the LIHEAP program, particularly in this time of soaring fuel prices, said Governor Douglas. No Vermonter should be cold in his or her home this winter, or any winter. Through my new Food and Fuel Partnership, my administration is marshalling all our states resources to ensure all Vermonters are able to weather the perfect storm of rising food, fuel and transportation prices. Thanks to the financial commitments made by Governor Douglas and the Vermont legislature, last year Vermont provided the most generous LIHEAP benefit in the country, averaging approximately $1169 per household, with approximately 23,000 households served. Ensuring that the LIHEAP program remains strong for the many families it serves is a key component of the Governors Food and Fuel Partnership, said Agency of Human Services Secretary Cynthia D. LaWare. With so many Vermont and New England residents facing the very real prospect of being unable to heat their homes this winter, we need unwavering support from our federal partners in addition to the states efforts to ensure our most vulnerable families are able to keep their families warm. The New England Governors further noted that all of their states are mobilizing resources to address the coming heating crisis, including establishing programs to replace inefficient furnaces, and significantly expanding the installation of insulation, programmable thermostats, thermal windows, weather stripping, and energy efficient appliances. However, these measures alone will not be enough to address the immediate needs of vulnerable families this winter. The NEGC also called on the federal government to take action to protect New Englands most vulnerable residents through a variety of other measures. These include significantly increasing funding for the federal Weatherization Program; increasing TANF block grants to allow for family supplemental payments for greater utility and heating costs; allowing Medicaid rules to cover increasing energy costs for programs and services that are provided in 24/7 facilities such as group homes and residential care and nursing facilities; and, increasing social services block grants to cover additional costs of transportation and energy for center-based care, such as child-care centers. The New England Governors' Conference, Inc., is a non-partisan, non-profit corporation, and includes the Governors of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The NEGC coordinates regional policy programs in the areas of economic development, transportation, environment, energy, and health.