Veto of home energy assistance expansion overridden

Lawmakers successfully overrode a veto May 26 of a bill expanding a program that assists low-income homeowners in Nebraska.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist32' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Tom Brandt'>Sen. Tom Brandt</a>
Sen. Tom Brandt

LB306, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, increases the eligibility threshold for the low income home energy assistance program from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent. The bill also requires the state Department of Health and Human Services to allocate at least 10 percent of program funds to weatherization assistance.

Senators passed the bill on a 38-6 vote May 20.

In a veto statement, Gov. Pete Ricketts said LB306, which is funded with federal dollars through Sept. 30, 2022, creates a permanent benefit with temporary funding.

“When those one-time federal dollars run out, the most in need will be disadvantaged by receiving a smaller share of the regular LIHEAP program funds,” Ricketts said.

Brandt said the bill makes the program more efficient. Currently, he said, LIHEAP is funded through a federal block grant and funds left over at the end of the year must be returned to the federal government. To avoid this, DHHS allocates supplemental payments to homeowners, he said.

“LB306 will make the program more efficient by eliminating the supplemental payments away from those customers who do not need them and reallocating the funds to more people who actually need assistance,” Brandt said.

Lawmakers overrode the veto on a 32-15 vote. Thirty votes were needed.

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