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Republicans Cut Heating for Poor, Pell Grants for Students

Congressional leaders last night agreed to a $1 trillion bill to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. As part of the deal, Republicans cut funding for subsidies that help the poor stay warm during the winter by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, the Pentagon’s budget is getting a 1 percent boost.

$518 billion was allocated for the Pentagon’s core budget, a 1 percent boost, while $3.5 billion was given to Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a cut of about 25 percent, reports the Washington Post.

Ironically, one of every five families using LIHEAP is a military family, a 156 percent increase from 2008.

The Republicans were also able to cut students out of the Pell Grant program, which provides low-income people with money for higher education. The deal will preserve the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550, but change the program’s eligibility criteria, making as many as 100,000 of its 9 million recipients ineligible.

The grants could be used for a total of 12 semesters, not 18, as in the past, a change that would affect an estimated 62,000 students and take effect July 1, 2012.

The maximum amount families could earn and automatically contribute nothing toward an undergraduate education would decrease from $30,000 to $23,000.

The plan also retroactively limits the number of semesters that a student can use grants, meaning some students a semester or two away from graduation could see their grants dry up.

The Institute for College Access and Success said that these changes “would disproportionately affect black students and transfer students.” The education reform organization Education Trust also criticized the cuts, saying that they “will hit some of America’s most disadvantaged college students the hardest.”


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