On October 27, 2017, the Massachusetts Association of Community Action (MASSCAP), along with several community action agencies, launched a statewide awareness campaign on fuel assistance in advance of the cold weather. The awareness campaign includes the placement of a number of billboards throughout the state highlighting the fact that low income families and individuals can receive home heating help, as well as the launch of a website connected to MASSCAP called heatinghelpMA.org, which provides information for those in need of assistance.
“We want to raise awareness of the fuel assistance program to make sure those who need it know how to access it. Winters in New England can be brutal and fuel assistance helps our vulnerable friends and neighbors avoid having to make excruciating decisions related to heating or food or clothes,” said Joe Diamond, MASSCAP’s executive director. “Fuel assistance helps to stabilize a household from an economic point of view, allowing people to focus on the kind of supports and training that lead to economic mobility.”
Fuel Assistance, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), is a federal program that helps low income households address energy costs. The program is administered in Massachusetts by a network of 22 community-based organizations, including 20 Community Action Agencies (CAAs), the City of Cambridge, and the New England Farm Workers Council. Together, up to 160,000 households each year are served. The Heating Help billboards will be in an estimated 60 locations around Massachusetts, beginning November 6 and lasting throughout the winter months.
The LIHEAP program is crucial not only to help pay for the rising cost of heat during cold New England winters, but also to ensure public safety and health throughout the region. Fuel Assistance recipients are also eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), a federal program that helps participating households stretch their fuel assistance dollars.
The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently projected that there will be a significant rise in the cost of home heating this year because of increasing price of supply and anticipated colder weather. EIA estimates, for instance, there will be 17.2 percent increase in cost of heating oil, from an average $1,248 to $1,462.
The Massachusetts Association of Community Action’s 23 private, non-profit human service and advocacy organizations work to administer key anti-poverty programs in every city and town in the Commonwealth. These organizations serve over 600,000 low-income people annually, more than half of them with incomes below 125% of the federal poverty level.