By JORDAN SHAPIRO
(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday his plan to put $15 million toward helping low-income Missourians cope with rising propane prices.
The Democratic governor said the additional funding would allow low-income people to continue heating their homes even though prices for the fuel have increased to more than $4 per gallon.
“No hard-working Missouri family should have to choose between putting food on the table and staying warm,” Nixon said in a written statement.
U.S. supplies of propane were depleted by a late harvest that increased demand from farmers who use it to dry grain before storage. As colder-than-normal temperatures spread across much of the country, supplies dropped to the lowest level ever during the second week of January.
The additional funds in Nixon’s plan would come from the federal government’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It would also double the amount each Missouri household can receive for propane assistance.
The governor’s office estimates that 245,000 Missourians rely on propane to heat their homes.
Nixon’s announcement is the latest in a string of actions by governors to address the high price of the gas. Officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin last week also boosted aid for low-income residents. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order prohibiting suppliers from price-gouging, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence recently asked farmers and other propane users to return unused portions to suppliers.
Nixon’s move was welcomed by some state lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who is leading the charge in the Legislature for an investigation into possible price gouging. Parson has accused the propane industry of boosting exports to create higher prices back home. House and Senate committees are considering resolutions that would ask the Department of Justice to investigate the situation.
On Monday, House Speaker Tim Jones said that working toward a propane price inquiry would be a top priority in the coming weeks.
“We want to take every action possible to protect Missourians from what many fear is blatant price gouging,” said Jones, R-Eureka, in a written statement.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is also investigating.