(UNDATED) - Low-income Indiana families who rely on federal aid to help pay their heating bills will get about a third less money this winter under changes a state agency has imposed in response to expected federal budget cutbacks.
Advocates for the poor said the state and federal cuts come at a time many families are struggling to pay for basic necessities in the weak economy.
The heating-aid reductions come as a bipartisan congressional panel continues its work to cut at least $1.2 trillion over the coming decade to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which distributes the federal heating-aid money to local nonprofits that process aid requests, has scaled back the average amount of aid recipients will get this winter season to $255. That's $130 less than last year's average of about $380.
The IHCDA has received about $48 million in heating assistance funds from the federal Health and Human Services Department. He said the state agency will use about $18 million of that money to reimburse itself for much of the $25 million it set aside for heating aid this fall after dipping into a cash reserve and carry-over funds.
The agency is releasing a total of $55 million for heating assistance. But it's unknown how much more might eventually be coming as the congressional panel continues its work to find places to cut spending.
The state's regulated utilities all have programs to help low-income residents pay their bills. Local aid groups, such as the United Way, as well as township trustees also have limited funding to help with heating-assistance.
Have a question or comment about a news story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org