As home heating oil reaches an unprecedented high of $6 per gallon, a whopping 120,000-plus Massachusetts households receiving fuel assistance have used up their benefits.
These tens of thousands of families with young children, seniors and others are scrambling to keep their homes warm as relentless March cold continues to hit Massachusetts.
One working single mother served by ABCD said she called home from the office to tell her son to turn off the heat. “He said ‘You mean turn it down, mom?’ and I replied ‘NO, TURN IT OFF. We are out of benefits and can’t afford an oil delivery.’”
At a cost of $6 per gallon, it takes $1,650 to fill an oil tank, a fill-up that lasts less than a month.
“America’s low-income families are in full-blown economic crisis,” said John J. Drew, President/CEO, Action for Boston Community Development. “They are striving to fill their gas tanks to get to work and buy food and other necessities at soaring prices. These are our most vulnerable residents. They need and deserve help NOW. Here in the Northeast it stays cold through April.”
Drew said he and all providers and recipients are grateful for the increased fuel assistance provided this year through the federal Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but given the current world-wide economic crisis, immediate additional federal help is needed.
The spike in heating costs followed President Biden’s March 7 banning of Russian oil imports.
Drew is also hopeful that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will provide heating assistance in the supplemental state budget now in process, thanking Representative Kevin Honan and House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for supporting an amendment requesting $50 million in fuel assistance. That amendment was reduced to $5 million in the House and is now in the Senate with hopes of passage at the $50 million level.
Immediate fuel assistance funding will be life-saving for oil and propane heat customers who are out of benefits as well as prevent shut off for electric and gas customers. The winter moratorium on shut offs for utility customers ends April 1.
Eligible households most in need currently receive $1,650 in fuel assistance benefits through the Low-income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program, an increase from last year intended to help combat the rise in energy costs. But no one anticipated the current sky-rocketing costs that are putting our most vulnerable families at terrible risk.
Apply now! There is funding for new applicants. Boston-area residents can apply by calling ABCD Fuel Assistance at 617-357-6012. Those living in the Mystic Valley region can call 781-322-6284. Help with applications is also available at all ABCD neighborhood centers. A new online system for first-time fuel assistance applicants can be accessed at toapply.org/MassLIHEAP. Go to bostonabcd.org/heat for detailed information, including a listing of neighborhood centers with contact information.
The 2022 federal poverty level for a family of four is $26,500 in earnings annually or $12,880 for a single person. To keep struggling families and elders from falling through the cracks, help with fuel costs is also available to those slightly above poverty level. For example, a family of four earning $78,751 or a single person with an income of $40,951 may currently qualify for $989 in fuel assistance.
Donations gratefully accepted ABCD is grateful for any private donations to the ABCD WINTER FUND which will be used to help those in fuel assistance emergencies after using up their allocation. Your generous gift can save a household from hypothermia, stop a family from turning to dangerous heating substitutes, prevent sickness, and dramatically improve the quality of life. If you’d like to donate to the ABCD Winter Fund, please call 617-348-6559, email [email protected] or visit bostonabcd.org/give