Fuel assistance vital to low-income households as pandemic extends into winter

ABCD main office on Tremont Street. People can come to drop off documents for the fuel assistance program. (Photo courtesy of Hongyu Liu)

As winter approaches along with the persisting pandemic, more families are staying home. This means facing potential significant hikes in household heating bills. Fueling up a tank can cost anywhere from  $200 to $500. Depending on the frequency of use, the tank may need to be refilled at least 3-4 times over the winter months. This is a significant cost, especially to those that fall in the lower-income bracket.

In the early to mid-1970s, the OPEC Oil Embargo crisis confronted the nation with skyrocketing fuel prices that most citizens were unable to pay for. This resulted in federal-founded fuel voucher programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Enacted in 1981, the program aimed to decrease cases of hypothermia and allow children to do homework in the cold winters. Here in Boston, the Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is one of the largest community action organizations that has been providing this support to homeowners and renters for over decades.

Today, the problem of affordable fuel is equally relevant as the pandemic has now extended into the harsh New England winter. ABCD’s program is currently accepting new applicants until April 30th, 2021. Previous members were given a chance to recertify their eligibility for the program this past summer via mail with information of their vendor and address for instant annual renewal. Due to the pandemic, the process may be slower than usual so applicants are asked to be patient.