Along with MASSCAP and the state’s 22 other Community Action Agencies, Action Inc. is calling for additional funding to support the Fuel Assistance (LIHEAP) program in Massachusetts.
The recent severe cold weather means that many heating systems have been running non-stop for the past few weeks, and many enrollees will soon exhaust their benefits. Without benefits, some households will have their heating shut off. This means many clients will be in the difficult position of deciding between paying for things like food and medicine or paying for heat. More immediately, this can lead to serious problems, like frozen pipes, a lack of fresh water, and increased fire and carbon monoxide risks from the use of space heaters, stoves, and fireplaces.
Funding for LIHEAP has decreased in recent years, and in most cases is not sufficient for a full New England winter. Prolonged cold and rising oil prices mean the benefit must be stretched even further. Across the state, it is expected that more than 40,000 oil heat households will exhaust their benefits by the end of January.
Winter has only just begun and temperatures are due to drop again in the coming days. Without the release of additional funds, thousands of vulnerable families, children, seniors, and veterans will face an arduous winter. In recent years, the Governor and the State Legislature have provided supplemental fuel assistance resources in response to limited federal funding and grave weather conditions. In years when the additional funding is not needed, it has not been requested. However, the reality of the severe conditions this winter means this request is a necessity.
Action Inc., MASSCAP, and our sister agencies are joined by a diverse coalition of organizations in calling for a state fuel assistance line item, including: the AARP, the Massachusetts Councils on Aging, the Children’s Health Watch at the Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association (formerly the Massachusetts Oil Heat Council), the Boston Center for Independent Living, and the National Consumer Law Center.
We would encourage any individuals wishing to support this request to contact their legislator.