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Residents with Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program almost out of funds

BOSTON (WWLP) - MASSCAP is urging Governor Charlie Baker and members of the legislation to allocate more funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program before people run out of their program assistance at the end of the month.

According to MASSCAP Spokesperson Lisa Clay, when temperatures are between 10 to 20 degrees heating systems run almost all the time, resulting in households potentially going through 100 gallons of oil in less than a week. 

Clay said the organization is asking Baker to include $30 million for the program in the next FY 19 Supplemental Budget. 

The organization said the money is needed because of the severe weather and an $11 million cut in the state's federal fuel assistance allocation.

Most of the almost 48,000 oil heat households who use the program, Clay said, have already used all their assistance, and the rest will have used their remaining assistance by the end of the month. 

Clay said this leaves them "in a perilous position for the rest of the winter."

“Of particular concern are those 48,000 households that heat with home heating oil," said MASSCAP executive Director Joe Diamond. "Households made up of seniors, and children and veterans, most of whom will have used up their benefit by the end of January.”

Households struggling to pay for heat may engage in dangerous heating alternatives such as the improper use of space heaters, kitchen stoves, and fireplaces, according to Clay. The improper use of heating alternatives could lead to a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Additionally, Clay said, the households may also be faced with tough choices including choosing between heat, food, or healthcare. 

The Valley Opportunity Council in Chicopee said they've been getting a lot of calls lately from their fuel assistance residents, saying their heating oil is already almost gone. 

VOC Director of Programs Melissa White told 22News 1,500 Hampden County residents will run out of oil at the end of January, due to an $11 million cut in their federally funded fuel assistance program. 

"There is no benefit left for them and often these are folks who are seniors these are vulnerable populations, there are children," said White. "They will have nothing left to heat their homes throughout winter."

White said the fuel assistance program can only fund about half of the supply of heating oil of a standard Massachusetts household. 

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