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This is Governor John Baldacci.

I know that despite the recent drop in gasoline and oil prices, people remain deeply concerned about this winter. The price is still hovering around $4 dollars a gallon.

The cost of energy is creating real hardships for thousands of Mainers, and leaving even more on the economic edge.

In August, I detailed my plans to help Maine families and businesses through the first part of this winter, and this weekend I’d like to update you on the progress we’ve made.

Mainers are facing a tough winter, but we are not without tools that can make a real difference in people’s lives.

For most of our vulnerable citizens – those families and individuals who qualify for heating assistance – I have committed an additional $4 million dollars to increase aid.

The federal government so far has not lived up to its responsibility for heating assistance, my hope is that congress and the delegation will make that happen. But in Maine we are going to make sure that no one freezes while waiting for the feds.

We have also committed to an emergency fund that will meet the needs of families in crisis during winter’s coldest months.

Through a public-private partnership, we are investing $3 million dollars in making homes more energy efficient and repairing the furnaces for families on the edge.

We’re reprogramming money for business loans and to enhance alternative modes of transportation.

And we are going to begin to distribute at least 2,000 KeepMeWarm kits to homeowners. Those kits include materials to help save energy – save money.

In addition, we are making available low-interest loans to middle-income families from Maine State Housing Authority. The loans are designed to help families make their homes more energy efficient without overly burdening them with high monthly payments.

Now, we haven’t stopped there.

We are training hundreds of new energy auditors and installers and put to work the newest technology at our universities and community colleges to make the classes available to as many people as possible. We need you now.

And we are also going to support existing contractors and builders and the work that needs to be done and homeowners across the State are trying to weatherize their homes this winter.

Later this month, I will host a short training session, which will be broadcast around the State, that is going to teach anyone who is interested simple ways to make their homes more energy efficient.

I’m not teaching the class, you don’t need to worry. We’ll have a real expert for that. But I’ll show that anybody – even the governor – can master easy techniques that can save real money.

And when winter arrives and the days grow short and the temperatures fall, I know that Mainers can depend upon one another.

And that’s why the State will help to support the volunteer efforts of local community groups. We are building a master list of organizations so that we can match people who need help with those who want to give help.

And we are going to create a Web site where anyone can find the energy related programs available in their community.

We are partnering with the media in Maine and we are going to reach out to every household with information about how to prepare for winter.

Over 500,000 brochures will be distributed with DVDs and people who need help can call 2-1-1 and receive the information or assistance they need.

Fundraising efforts have already begun for KeepMEWarm Funds, where Mainers’ generosity will translate into warm homes and safe families.

Now, our long-term goal must be to reduce the consumption of oil and gasoline and to free our economy from foreign oil.

During the next Legislative session, starting in December, I am going to propose a plan that is a comprehensive plan that moves us along that path so that we can – at the end of 10 years – be energy independent. And less dependent will strengthen our economy, protect our national security, improve our environment and most importantly provide for economic development – jobs with benefits – for our citizens.

But between now and then, however, we are going to do everything necessary to keep people warm and safe in their homes this winter.

Thank you and have a good weekend.

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