Thursday, March 22, 2001

Help for heat bills finally passes Senate

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A bill to give one-time help to low-income Ohioans with their winter heating bills finally cleared the Senate on Wednesday. The haggling over how much help customers will get and how to spread the savings to more people lasted three weeks.

        The 32-1 vote sent the bill back to the House, which is expected to agree to the Senate changes next week.

        The bill authorizes $20 million for Gov. Bob Taft's Project THAW, or Temporary Heating Assistance for Warmth. The program, which includes another $20 million in federal aid, would give payments up to $250 to apply to half of one heating bill.

        An amendment that minority Democrats put in the bill Tuesday allows qualifying customers to apply the payment to any past-due charges that appear on their bill.

        Last week, Republican changes had limited the aid to one month's worth of energy charges. They, however, added a provision in the final version that allows the state to use other sources of revenue should the program run out of money.

        Applications for the aid are limited to those making 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less, meaning a family of four making about $37,000 a year could qualify.


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