Assistance is coming for those struggling to pay heating bills this winter.

The House has given preliminary approval to a supplemental budget bill providing $6.4 million for Utilicare, the program that helps the poor pay heating bills. The total is the most the law allows the state to chip in to the federal program. Utilicare pays an average of $228 for the entire winter season. To qualify, a person cannot make more than 125% of the federal poverty rate.

Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia) says with heating bill rising, the money doesn’t go as far.      Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) questions why the state doesn’t just take on the obligation itself and fund it through the regular budget. She argues that the state needs to take on the obligation and not rely on the federal government.

One more positive vote sends it to the Senate, which is expected to give HB 2015 quick approval so money can be ready for this winter.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)