Families Forced to Choose Between Heat, Food, Medicine, as Bitter Cold Descends on New England
Advocates for the poor in Massachusetts are calling on the governor and legislature to immediately allocate state funding to help low-income seniors and working families survive a winter that is turning bitter cold this week.
Last year the Commonwealth provided $21 million to supplement federal fuel assistance funds.
All ABCD fuel aid recipients who heat with oil - more than 5,000 families – have used up their federal benefits and are struggling to heat their homes. Across the state, approximately 50,000 families are out of fuel benefits.
Oil prices are significantly higher than gas, creating a severe heating crisis for oil customers.
Biting cold from Canada is descending on New England this week, wreaking devastation on families who are already going without food and medicine and delaying rent payments in order to put oil in their fuel tanks.
This year the top federal fuel assistance benefit is $1,125 for a family of four. With heating oil close to $4 a gallon, that will barely fill an oil tank once. Households need three to four tanks to get through the winter.
ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew asks the state to come to the aid of its most vulnerable residents, as it did last year. “We have a lot of terrified people who can’t see how they are going to survive,” he said. “We ask the Governor and legislature to step up to the plate and help alleviate the massive suffering that is occurring right now.”
Drew called cold weather a “natural disaster.” “It can kill,” he said. “Every year there are frail seniors who succumb to hypothermia or people who die in house fires caused by using unsafe space heaters or cooking stoves to try and stay warm. We have to provide protection for our most vulnerable seniors and young families.” ABCD currently has 18,000 fuel assistance applications, of which approximately 5,000 households heat with oil. The program expects to process more than 22,000 applications by winter’s end. More than one third of heating aid recipients are seniors.
The ABCD Fuel Assistance program serves Boston, Brookline and Newton. Families eligible for fuel assistance are also eligible for utility discounts, weatherization, and heating system replacements.
Applications for fuel assistance are available at ABCD’s downtown office of any of its neighborhood centers. Call the ABCD Fuel Assistance hotline at 617-357-6012 or go to www.bostonabcd.org for more information
ABCD also asks for private donations to its Winter Emergency Campaign that provides fuel assistance, warm coats and comforters and other cold-related help to those in need. To make a very important difference in someone’s life this winter, please go to www.bostonabcd.org or call 617-348-6559 for more information and to make a donation.
ABCD serves more than 85,000 low-income Boston-area residents through its central offices and a decentralized network of Neighborhood Service Centers (NSCs), Head Start centers, Family Planning sites and Foster Grandparent sites. Programs and affiliations include Fuel Assistance; Head Start; Child Care Services; Child Care Choices of Boston; Education; Career Development; Housing and Homelessness Services; Health Services; Family Planning; Urban College of Boston; University High – an Alternative High School; Ostiguy High School for high school students in recovery; Weatherization; Foster Grandparents; Elder Services; Intergenerational Programs; Food Pantries in several Boston neighborhoods; management of federal, state and city charitable campaigns; advocacy and consumer services.
# # #