Federal LIHEAP program sets benefits up to $600
(BOSTON, MA) – ABCD urges residents to apply immediately for home heating assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides up to $600 in fuel assistance for eligible households.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Community Services (OCS), Division of Energy Assistance (DEA), awarded $3.7 billion in LIHEAP funding nationwide. The Massachusetts allocation is $130 million.
ABCD provides assistance to eligible households in Boston, Brookline, Newton and seven communities in the Mystic Valley region: Malden, Medford, Everett, Melrose, Stoneham, Winchester and Woburn.
“Temperatures are dropping, and the cost of living is placing a huge burden on families struggling to cover expenses,” said ABCD President and CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler. “This assistance can make a major difference for families whose budgets are stretched thin by soaring rents, and increasing costs for food, transportation, and other essentials.”
For instance, in Greater Boston in 2021, 49% of renter households spent more than 30% of their income on housing, and The Greater Boston Food Bank reports that food insecurity for households statewide increased from 19% in 2019 to 33% in 2022.
Last year ABCD provided home heating assistance to 29,963 households. This year, the organization has already received 10,000 applications to renew LIHEAP eligibility. In addition, ABCD helps households with arrearages work with the utility companies to reduce payments, and is receiving more calls than usual for help. As of April 2023, the average utility arrearages for Massachusetts households were between $700 and $1300.
Scott-Chandler applauds the release of the funding but notes that it won’t be enough to get vulnerable families through the cold New England winter.
Currently home heating oil is approaching $4/gallon. The average tank is 250 – 275 gallons, meaning it will cost about $1,100 at today’s prices to fill a tank once, and some households have to fill the tank two to three times during heating season.
LIHEAP benefits are awarded based on household size and annual income. Many people make the mistake of thinking they won’t qualify when, in fact, they would. For example:
- An individual at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) earning $14,580 may receive $600
- A family of four at 100% of the FPL earning $30,000 may receive $600
- A family of eight at 100% of the FPL earning $50,560 may receive $600
Some households qualify for less help, but it can still make a difference:
- An individual at 60% of the state median income earning $45,392 may receive $430
- A family of four at 60% of the state median income earning $87,294 may receive $430
- A family of eight at 60% of the state median income earning $120,465 may receive $430
Andrea Mendoza, Director of ABCD Energy Services, points out the dangers of residents finding themselves in a no-heat situation: “They may resort to space heaters, which can cause fires if not used safely. They close off rooms and huddle in the kitchen around a stove. They boil water for the heat. Kids wake up cold and go to school sick. Older people are susceptible to hypothermia. It costs everyone more in the end due to illness and fires. The results can be tragic.”
How to apply
Residents of Boston, Brookline and Newton can apply by calling ABCD at 617-357-6012. Residents of the Mystic Valley region can call ABCD’s Malden Fuel Assistance office at 781-322-6284. They can also call their neighborhood center and make an appointment to fill out fuel assistance forms in person. Previous fuel recipients received recertification forms in the mail which they should fill out and return.
All Massachusetts residents can apply online at toapply.org/MassLIHEAP
More information including a list of Boston-area neighborhood site locations and phone numbers may be found at bostonabcd.org/heat.
ABCD also offers qualifying families a comprehensive range of energy services to keep families warm, safe and healthy including repair and replacement of inoperable or highly inefficient heating systems, utility discounts, weatherization, programs to improve energy conservation, and much more.
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@example.com 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.