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H.790

Introduced by   Representatives Marron of Stowe, Klein of East Montpelier, Kupersmith of S. Burlington, Martin of Springfield, O'Donnell of Vernon, Pugh of S. Burlington, Reese of Pomfret, Shand of Weathersfield and Wright of Burlington

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Human services;, heating assistance;, moderate income

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish a heating assistance program for moderate income Vermonters and provide financial protection to fuel suppliers who make emergency deliveries.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE MODERATE INCOME HEATING ASSISTANCE TRUST

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


Sec. 1.   33 V.S.A. chapter 26 is amended to read:

CHAPTER 26.  HOME HEATING FUEL ASSISTANCE

Subchapter 1.  General Provisions

§ 2601.  POLICY AND PURPOSE

(a)  It is the purpose of this chapter to secure the safety and health of low and moderate income Vermont households by providing needy Vermonters with assistance for the purchase of essential home heating fuel.

(b)  This chapter establishes a home heating fuel assistance program programs in the agency of human services with both a seasonal fuel assistance component for very low and moderate income households and a crisis component program to supply fuel assistance to low income households in crisis situations.

§ 2601a.  2601A. DEFINITIONS DEFINITIONSOF HOUSEHOLD

For purposes of this chapter:

(1)(A)  "Household" means any individual or group of individuals who live together as one economic unit:

(A) (i)  for whom energy for home heating fuel is customarily purchased in common; or

(B) (ii)  who make undesignated payments for energy for home heat in the form of rent.

(2) (B)  The following individuals are members of the same household based on their being legally responsible for the financial support of the applicant or recipient or another member of the household:

(A) (i)  An individual residing in the dwelling unit who is the husband or wife or minor daughter or son of the applicant or recipient.

(B) (ii)  An individual residing in the dwelling unit who is the parent of any minor daughter or son included in the household, any minor daughter or son of such parent not already included in the household, the husband or wife of any minor included in the household, or the minor daughter or son of any minor included in the household.

(3) (C)  The following individuals shall be presumed to be members of the same household, unless the applicant or recipient provides to the office of home heating fuel assistance reasonable evidence that such individuals are not members of the same household economic unit:

(A) (i)  An individual residing in the dwelling unit who is related by blood, marriage, or adoption to another resident of the dwelling unit and has not been included in the household in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) (B) of this section.  Such relationships include the relationship of the adult applicant or adult recipient to his or her father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, adult son, adult daughter, grandson, granddaughter, brother, sister, stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, or stepsister.

(B) (ii)  An unrelated individual residing in the dwelling unit who does not pay reasonable compensation to rent one or more rooms as separate living quarters, or who does not make reasonable compensation in the form of caretaker or companionship services in the case of an applicant or recipient who is 60 years of age or older or disabled.

(4) (D)  The following individuals shall be presumed not to be members of the same household, provided that the applicant or recipient provides to the office of home heating fuel assistance reasonable evidence that such individuals meet the standards specified below for exclusion from the economic unit:

(A) (i)  Individuals in the custody of and placed in foster care by the department of social and rehabilitative services for children and families, family services division, and individuals placed in a home by or through a program administered by the department of developmental and mental health services agency of human services.

(B) (ii)  Individuals providing medically necessary personal care or homemaker services to a member of the household who is 60 years of age or older or disabled.

     (52)  LIHEAP means the federal lLow iIncome hHome eEnergy aAssistance pProgram or its successor pursuant to subchapter 2 of this chapter.


§ 2602.  ADMINISTRATION

(a)  The agency of human services shall administer the home heating fuel assistance program programs through an office of home heating fuel assistance to be assigned within the agency as determined by the secretary, and to be headed by a director appointed by the secretary.

(b)  The secretary of human services shall adopt rules, pursuant to chapter 25 of Title 3, necessary for the implementation of this chapter, or pursuant to any applicable federal laws or regulations.   In order to adopt rules for the implementation of the home heating fuel assistance program for the 1996-97 heating season, the secretary may adopt rules from May 1, 1996 through September 1, 1996 under the expeditious rule making procedures set out in section 134 of Act No. 63 of the 1995 session relating to the expeditious adoption of social welfare rules.

(c)  The secretary shall engage in cost-effective purchasing practices to maximize the purchasing power of public funds used in connection with the home heating fuel assistance program programs.  Such practices shall include, but not be limited to, preseason purchases of fuel, fixed price agreements, automatic fuel delivery, and negotiations with fuel suppliers on behalf of program recipients beneficiaries for additional fuel price discounts.  The practices authorized by this subsection shall be used in connection with all applicable fuels purchased by program beneficiaries.  The secretary shall make available to program recipients the list of fuel suppliers who have agreed to provide fuel discounts.

Subchapter 2.  Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

* * *

§ 2604.  ELIGIBLE BENEFICIARIES; REQUIREMENTS

(a)  Household income requirements.  The secretary, by rule, shall establish household income and asset eligibility requirements of beneficiaries in the seasonal fuel assistance program including the income and assets of all residents of the household.  The eligibility requirements shall require that households have a net household income no greater than 125 percent of the federal poverty level in order to be potentially eligible for benefits.  Net income shall be derived by making the following deductions from gross income: 20 percent of household members' gross earned income; 100 percent of federal or state earned income credits received by household members; dependent care expenses that are within an allowable maximum, paid by a household member, and necessary to support a household member's employment or training for employment, according to criteria established by the secretary by rule; child support or alimony payments made by a household member on behalf of a nonhousehold membe r that meet criteria established by the secretary by rule; $150.00 for each household member who is 60 years of age or older or disabled according to criteria established by the secretary by rule; any deductions or exclusions required by federal law or regulations; and any other deduction or exclusion established by the secretary by rule.

(b)  Fuel cost requirements.  The secretary shall adopt rules that specify the responsibility of the applicant households and their certified fuel supplier in providing the office of home heating fuel assistance with information that the office will use to establish an applicant household's heating fuel consumption for the previous year.  The secretary shall by rule establish a table that contains amounts that will function as a proxy for applicant households' annual heating fuel cost for the previous year.  The seasonal fuel expenditure estimates contained within such table shall closely approximate the actual home heating costs experienced by participants in the home heating fuel assistance program. Such table shall be revised no less frequently than every three years based on data supplied by certified fuel suppliers to the office of home heating fuel assistance, as required by rule.  The secretary shall also establish by rule minimum amounts of annual home heating fuel costs that vary based on the household's size and annual income.

(c)  In determining heating fuel costs of households:

(1)(A)  Households that make undesignated payments for energy for home heat in the form of rent and are not participating in a public, subsidized or Section 8 housing program shall be eligible for an annual home heating fuel assistance benefit in an amount equal to 30 percent of the benefit the household would have received if the household were purchasing energy for home heating fuel directly, or in the amount of $50.00, whichever amount is greater.

(B)  Households that make undesignated payments for energy for home heat in the form of rent and are participating in a public, subsidized or Section 8 housing program shall be eligible for a nominal annual home heating fuel assistance benefit of $5.00.  This benefit amount is effective beginning with the 1999-2000 program year.

(C)  Residents of the dwelling unit who make reasonable compensation in the form of room rent and who are not members of the same household shall be eligible for an annual home heating fuel assistance benefit in the amount of $50.00.

(2)  Residents of housing units subsidized by the federal, state, or local government shall be deemed to have incurred no annual home heating fuel costs, except to the extent required by any federal law or regulation if federal funds are utilized for the home heating fuel assistance program, and with the following additional exception.  Housing unit residents that receive Aid to Needy Families with Children (ANFC), Supplemental Security Income/aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (SSI/AABD), ANFC emergency assistance, or general assistance benefits that are used in whole or in part to pay for their housing or utility costs and do not receive other federal, state or local government assistance targeted specifically to their housing or utility needs shall, with the exception of households for which the cost of heat is supplied by the landlord, be assumed to incur annual home heating fuel costs and their eligibility for annual heating fuel assistance shall not be limited by this subsection.

(3)  The annual heating fuel cost for a household unit shall be only for the cost of the primary heating fuel source of the unit, which may be for wood, electricity, or any other fuel source, but annual heating fuel costs shall be only for the cost of heat and not include the cost of the fuel for any other uses of the household.

(d)  The secretary shall establish criteria by rule for requiring a household to agree to automatic fuel deliveries as a condition of benefits.

* * *

 

§ 2607.  PAYMENTS TO FUEL SUPPLIERS

(a)  The director shall certify fuel suppliers to be eligible to participate in the home heating fuel assistance program, and beneficiaries may obtain assistance for fuel deliveries only from a fuel supplier certified by the director.

(b)  Certified fuel suppliers shall agree to conduct reasonable efforts in order to inform and assist beneficiaries in their service areas, maintain records of amounts and costs of all fuel deliveries, send periodic statements to customers receiving home heating fuel assistance informing them of their account's credit or debit balance as of the last statement, deliveries or usage since that statement and the charges for such, payments made or applied, indicating their source, since that statement, and the ending credit or debit balance.  Certified fuel suppliers shall also agree to provide the director such information deemed necessary for the efficient administration of the program.

(c)  Certified fuel suppliers shall not disclose the beneficiary status of recipients of home heating fuel assistance benefits, the names of recipients, or other information pertaining to recipients to anyone, except for purposes directly connected with administration of the home heating fuel assistance program or when required by law.

(d)  A supplier of wood fuel may be certified by the director only if the supplier is, in the normal course of business, a supplier of wood fuel; maintains a Social Security number or a federal tax identification number for such business; and provides that number to the director.

(e)  Certified fuel suppliers shall also agree to enter into budget agreements with beneficiaries for annualized monthly payments for fuel supplies provided the beneficiary meets accepted industry credit standards, and shall grant program beneficiaries such cash discounts, preseason delivery savings, automatic fuel delivery agreements, and any other discounts granted to any other heating fuel customer.

(f)  The office of home heating fuel assistance shall provide each certified fuel supplier with a list of the households who are its customers and have been found eligible for annual home heating fuel assistance for the current year, the total amount of annual home heating fuel assistance that has been authorized for each household, and how the total amount has been allocated over the heating season.  Each authorized amount shall function as a line of credit for each eligible household.  The office of home heating fuel assistance shall disburse authorized home heating fuel assistance benefits to certified fuel suppliers on behalf of eligible households in accordance with the allocation schedule.

(g)  In the event that on April 30 of any year a credit balance exists in a certified fuel supplier's account for a household that has received annual home heating fuel assistance during the previous 12 months, that certified fuel supplier is required to pay the amount of this credit balance to the office of home heating fuel assistance no later than May 31 of the same year.

(h)  The director may shall negotiate with one or more certified fuel suppliers to obtain the most advantageous pricing and, and payment terms, and delivery methods possible for eligible households.

* * *

Subchapter 3.  Moderate Income Heating Assistance Trust (MIHEAT)

§ 2610.  ELIGIBILITY; APPLICATIONS

(a)  Household income requirements.  The secretary, by rule, shall establish household income eligibility requirements of beneficiaries participants in the moderate income heating assistance trust, including. hHouseholds with income greater than the income eligwho are ineligible foribility ceiling of LIHEAP due to excessive income, but with anwhose income isas delivered in Vermont 150 and  less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  Household income shall be calculated using the same procedures as those that are used to determine income eligibility for LIHEAP in Vermont are eligible for benefits. Income shall be calculated in the same manner as for the low income heating assistance program. [is this the right program for income calculations?]

(b)  Delivered fuels.  To be eligibleparticipate in MIHEATP, households must purchase delivered fuels to heat the dwelling in which they reside and if feasible have an automatic fill delivery agreement with the fuel supplier.  For the purpose of this subchapter, delivered fuel means fuel oil, kerosene, propane, coal, and or wood.  (more open in case of new source?)

(c)  Applications.  The MIHEAPT application process shall be conducted in the same manner and according to the same procedures as those that as used for LIHEAP.  Applications for MIHEATP shall be accepted by the same agencies that accept applications to participate in LIHEAPP.  The office of home heating assistance shall accept applications for MIHEAT and determine eligibility.  A household must be in good standing and substantially have have repaid in full any certificate amounts in full from prior years in order to remain eligible for MIHEAT.

§ 2611.  BENEFITS

(a)  Eligible households shall receive a loan or credit from the certified fuel supplier to purchase up to 275 gallons of fuel oil or an equivalent quantity of other delivered fuel per year.  The secretary shall establish by rule the equivalent amounts of other delivered fuels.  The office shall provide eligible households with a certificate to present to participating fuel suppliers in lieu of payment upon delivery of the fuel.

(b)  Eligible households shall be responsible for repayment of the certificate amount  to the fuel supplier in the manner specified in section 2612 of this title.

§ 2612.  FUEL SUPPLIERS

(a)  The office shall certify fuel suppliers to be eligible to participate in MIHEATP in the same manner and according to the same procedures as those that apply to certification of fuel suppliers that participate in LIHEAP.   the moderate income heating assistance trust, and beneficiaries MIHEATP participating households may obtain assistance forMIHEATP fuel deliveries only from a fuel suppliers certified by the director.

(b)(1)  The state shall guarantee certified fuel suppliers payment for fuel amounts delivered to participating households up to the annual aggregate amount used to calculate the appropriation for the net program costsan annual aggregate dollar value of $20twenty million dollarsThis obligation shall not be deemed to constitute a debt or liability or obligation of the state or of any political subdivision thereof or a pledge of the faith and credit of the state or of any political subdivision but shall be payable solely from the revenues or assets deposited into the fund established under section 2613 of this title .  When certifying a fuel supplier, the office shall issue a statement to the effect that the office shall only be obligated to pay for fuel amounts delivered to  a participating households up to the annual aggregate amount$20twenty dollars from the revenues or assets in the fund established under section 2613 of this title, and that neither the faith and credit nor the taxing power of the state or of any political subdivision thereof is pledged to the payment.

(2)  the maximum amounts established under this subchapter. The office, by rule, shall establish a method for guaranteeing payment to the fuel supplier.  If the officer? advances an amount to the fuel supplier for payment, which is later collected by the fuel supplier from the eligible participating household, the fuel supplier shall forward that collection to the office.

(c)  Certified fuel suppliers shall agree in writing to conduct reasonable efforts in order to inform and assist beneficiaries in their service areas, maintain records of amounts and costs of all fuel deliveries, and send periodic statements to customers receiving assistance informing them of their account's balance as of the last statement, deliveries or usage since that statement, and the charges for such, payments made or applied, indicating their source, since that statement, and the ending credit or debit balance.  Certified fuel suppliers shall also agree to provide the office such information deemed necessary for the efficient administration of MIHEAT.

(d)  Certified fuel suppliers shall not disclose to anyone the beneficiary status of recipients of heating assistance benefits, the names of beneficiaries, or other information pertaining to beneficiaries to anyone, except for purposes directly connected with administration of MIHEAT or when required by law.

(e)  A supplier of wood fuel may be certified by the office only if the supplier is, in the normal course of business, a supplier of wood fuel; maintains a Social Security number or a federal tax identification number for such business; and provides that number to the director.

(f)  Certified fuel suppliers shall also bill and collect the certificate amounts in equal monthly payments, calculated from the time the household  receives the fuel toand October 1 following receipt.  Fuel suppliers shall bill and collect payments under this section in the same manner as the suppliers credit customers and shall grant beneficiaries such cash discounts, preseason delivery savings, automatic fuel delivery agreements, and any other discounts as granted to any other heating fuel customer.

 (g)  The office may shall negotiate with one or more certified fuel suppliers to obtain the most advantageous pricing g, and payment terms, and delivery methods  possible for eligible households. [did you want to do something with a more set amount? Rack +.25/.30?]

§ 2613.  MIHEAT REVOLVING LOAN FUND

(a)  The office shall establish a fund to be known as the moderate income heating assistance revolving loan fund to be expended by the director in accordance with this subchapter for the following purposes:

     (1) i. payments to certified fuel suppliers in accordance with proceduresrules to be established by the office;

     ii.(2)  partial or total supportpayment of interest that may accrue during the repayment of the MIHEAT loan period for participating households household interest that may accrue during repayment of MIHEATP loans;, and

     iii(3) . administrative expenses incurred by the office and other agencies delivering the MIHEATP program..

(b)  The fund shall be composed of the receipts from any appropriations by the general assembly, any grants or donations, and from payment amounts by eligible households for fuel deliveries.

(c)  All balances in the fund at the end of any fiscal year shall be carried forward and remain part of the fund.  Interest earned by the fund shall be deposited into the fund.

Sec. 2.  STUDY

The office of home heating fuel assistance shall study methods of increasing the cost-effectiveness of Vermont’s fuel assistance programs through preseason purchases of fuel, fixed price agreements, and other negotiations with fuel suppliers and increased participation by fuel suppliers.  The office shall report to the hHouse and sSenate appropriations committees, the sSenate cCommittee on hHealth and wWelfare and the hHouse cCommittee on hHuman sServices by January 15, 2007 with recommendations on how to increase the

 cost-effectiveness of the programs, how to increase participation by fuel suppliers, and possible incentives for fuel suppliers to participate and offer discounts to the programs.

Sec. 32.  APPROPRIATION

The amount of $1 million dollarsX is appropriated to the agency of human services to establish the moderate income fuel assistance trust pursuant to subchapter 3 of chapter 26 of Ttitle 33, chapter 26, subchapter 3.

Sec. 43.  DESIGNATION

Subchapter 2 of chapter 26 of Title 33 shall be composed of sections

 2603 – 2609.

Sec.. 43.  45EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 1 of this act shall be effective on September 1, 2006, except that the agency may engage in rulemaking and administrative operations necessary for the establishment of the trust.

 

 

 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us