Bitter January cold is hitting Massachusetts and ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) wants to remind residents that households at or below the federal poverty level can now receive as much as $1,650 in fuel assistance, while those with slightly higher incomes receive increased benefits on a sliding scale.
Due to the huge spike in energy costs and the ongoing economic crisis battering our most vulnerable households, benefits from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) have been increased. Last year the highest fuel assistance benefit was $1,210.
“We are thankful for this increase and look forward to the allocation soon of the significant funds committed by President Biden to get everyone safely through the winter and reduce the number of utility shut-offs in April,” said ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew.
Drew calls on residents in need to apply for assistance as soon as possible. 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.
Home heating oil in Massachusetts is currently at $3.43 a gallon and up, almost twice the cost last year. It costs about $800 to fill a tank, and that can run out in a matter of weeks in bitter New England weather. Vulnerable elders and others who cannot afford to keep their thermostats at a comfortable level put themselves at risk of getting sick – or worse.
The rise in home heating costs is sparked by a 30 percent increase in the cost of natural gas. Based on national data, the average residential natural gas bill will increase from $572 to $859 this year while heating oil costs per household can rise from $1,272 to $1,900. Costs are higher in the Boston-New England region.
Last year a total of 21,501 applications were received for the 2020-2021 heating season, 2,000 more than the previous year. To date this season, ABCD has received more than 16,000 applications. Based on an early surge of applicants, fuel assistance programs are predicting a significant increase in the number of households seeking aid.
Qualifying for fuel assistance opens the door to a comprehensive range of no-cost energy services to keep families warm, safe and healthy including repair and replacement of heating systems, energy-efficient appliances, utility discounts, weatherization, programs to improve energy conservation, and much more.
ABCD also offers more than 70 programs to meet basic needs and to equip individuals with the knowledge and resources to pursue their goals and achieve financial stability. For information about and referrals to all ABCD programs and services, contact [email protected] or 617.348.6329.
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 protected] or visit bostonabcd.org/donate.
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.