Urges state to move at least $20 million through conference committee;
Calls on feds to provide remaining funds from LIHEAP increase
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2022
CONTACT: Susan Kooperstein at 617.875.3619 or Lee Phenner at 339.368.1140
(BOSTON, MA) — With bitter cold weather returning this week, Action for Boston Community Development urges Boston-area and Mystic Valley residents to apply immediately for fuel assistance in order to keep their homes warm through the April and early May chill and to prevent shut-offs of gas and electric services as the state’s moratorium on utility shut-offs ends on April 1.
Each year state law prevents utility companies from shutting off services for gas and electricity customers behind in their payments during the cold winter months. That non-shut-down period is known as the utility shut-down moratorium.
What happens when the moratorium ends? Customers behind with utility payments as they struggle to pay soaring costs for everything from food to fuel will see shut-off notices in their mail and face the shut-down of life-giving electricity and gas services. Low and moderate income residents are forced to choose between paying for rent, food, medication, heat and utilities and other essential needs.
“These are the front-line victims of escalating costs due to the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues, continuing COVID fall-out and other factors, with no visible relief in sight,” said ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew. “Struggling households are caught between a rock and a hard place. They have limited incomes and everything costs more.”
“Right now, 75 percent of the almost 20,000 households receiving ABCD Fuel Assistance have used up their benefits and have nowhere to turn,” he said. “With the utility moratorium ending they are in danger of having their gas and electricity shut off. We need the federal and state governments to pay immediate attention to this issue. We’re talking about children and older people struggling to survive in freezing cold homes and perhaps without electricity. It stays very cold at night throughout April and into May in our northern states.”
This week the Massachusetts State Senate approved $20 million in fuel assistance to supplement funding from the federal Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). ABCD urges the state to approve at least that amount in conference committee and move the funding forward so that low and moderate income residents can keep the heat on throughout the cold spring season. ABCD thanks fuel assistance supporters in the House and Senate, noting that this is a critically needed allocation that will save money down the line as it prevents homelessness and health-related crises.
ABCD also calls on the federal Department of Health & Human Services to release the last 10 percent of LIHEAP funding – $15 million for Massachusetts – which was allocated for fuel assistance last December.
He noted that because of the astronomical price of oil – reaching a high of $6 a gallon in some areas – many fuel clients do not have the money left in their fuel assistance accounts to pay for the minimum delivery of 100 gallons.
Fuel aid recipients may have $200 or $300 left in their accounts but that won’t pay for a minimum delivery of 100 gallons costing $500 or $600. The federal LIHEAP program requires that fuel vendors be paid directly by the organization administering the fuel assistance program.
Eligible households most in need currently receive $1,650 in fuel assistance benefits this year 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. At the current price per gallon, it costs about $1,500 to fill an oil tank.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bostonabcd.org/give.
A nonprofit human services community action organization, ABCD provides low-income residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, we’ve served more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For more than 50 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in every neighborhood and community served, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.