As the cold New England winter arrives the Action for Boston Community Development’s (ABCD) annual Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)/ Fuel Assistance Program at the Jamaica Plain APAC & Citywide Boston Hispanic Center office on Bickford Street heats up.
This year ABCD’s local APAC office will help thousands of residents in Jamaica Plain and across the city stay warm this winter.
Although the LIHEAP is still accepting applications for new clients, more than 20,000 households have already exhausted their fuel benefits and need heat to get through the rest of the winter.
ABCD’s President and CEO John Drew, along with other LIHEAP administrators, is requesting that more money for fuel assistance be put into the Fiscal Year 2020 Massachusetts Supplemental Budget to help Jamaica Plain families and families across the state.
“Massachusetts today, the health and safety of tens of thousands of struggling low-income elders, children, people with disabilities, and families are at serious risk with months of frigid temperatures ahead and a critical need for state funding for home heating assistance,” said Drew. “In fact, 20,000 households statewide have exhausted their benefits and are on the brink of crisis.”
Drew said the consequences of not having heat can be dire and this funding is needed immediately.
“We appreciate the governor and state legislature’s efforts in the past, including last year. We ask these leaders to step up again by increasing funding for LIHEAP (the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program),” said Drew. “We are getting calls from worried elders and oil/propane customers whose tanks are empty – and many others will be out of benefits shortly due to the early cold snaps we have had this season.”
Even as Drew and others urge state legislators to allocate more money for the important Jamaica Plain program, ABCD is urging individuals and families to apply for heating assistance today.
“You can call ABCD at 617.357.6012 or visit bostonabcd.org/fuel-assistance to learn more,” said Drew. “If eligible, residents also qualify for a number of energy- and money-saving programs including repair or replacement of broken or inefficient furnaces, refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers or front loading washing machines, weatherization assistance, and more,” said Assistant Executive Director of community action agency Citizens for Citizens Liz Berube. “Despite the successful efforts by our Federal legislators to restore Federal funding to Massachusetts for fuel assistance, for which CFC along with our sister agencies are extremely grateful, Massachusetts will still see a cut in this year’s overall funding. In good conscience, CFC will need to reach out to our state legislature for additional resources to ensure that our most vulnerable households will be able to purchase the oil needed to stay warm, safe and healthy as well as assist all eligible households with their total energy burden.”
In Jamaica Plain LIHEAP eligibility is determined by annual income and how many people are in the household. The program is available to homeowners and renters – even those living in non-subsidized housing with heat included in the rent.
“Currently, a family of four with an annual income of $38,625 – 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level – will not receive any additional fuel assistance or be able to cover their bills if our state legislators don’t support this request,” said Drew. “The same goes for a family of eight making $43,430 – that’s 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Or consider one elder living on a fixed income of $15,613 – 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Level– they’ll be unable to keep their home warm, putting their health and safety in peril.”
Unsafe heating methods can turn into disaster. This funding will help prevent desperate elders and families from turning to unsafe methods to heat their homes – the oven, space heaters, and so forth – risking fire as they try to avoid the dangers of frostbite, hypothermia or worse. According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, one of every 68 space heater fires causes a fatality. Earlier this month, a fire took the lives of two brothers in Fitchburg whose heating oil tank was empty. Investigators suspect the space heater as a cause.