“Today’s frigid temperatures bring into sharp focus the need for state support for fuel assistance. We are so grateful to the Legislature and the Governor for allocating $57 million at the end of 2022 to help our vulnerable friends and neighbors cover their heating costs,” said Joe Diamond, MASSCAP Executive Director.
Community Action Agencies helped approximately 134,00 households last year address their energy burdens which includes the cost of heat, no matter the heat source. Diamond added that Community Action Agencies across the state are working with more and more households every day that are dealing with the shock of increasing prices.
“We are facing an unprecedented increase in prices for all fuels with electricity increasing 60 percent. This dynamic combined with the natural increase in prices resulting from winter increased demand, can pose a threat to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable households” said Liz Berube, Executive Director, Citizens for Citizens in Fall River.
Community Action Agencies around the state are reporting a marked increase. Statewide new applications are up close to 100%.
Fuel assistance, along with being a critical economic support program, is health and safety program and a housing preservation program. Studies prepared by the Boston Medical Center/Children’s Health Watch show that fuel assistance supports the health of young children, and low-income households that do not benefit from fuel assistance risk negative effects on the development of young children.
“We make the fuel assistance dollar go further through weatherization and heating system repair and replacement,” pointed out Mary Knittle, Energy Director, Worcester Community Action Council. She added that households that qualify for fuel assistance automatically qualify for weatherization services. Community Action Agencies are the delivery system for energy conservation/climate equity services to low-income households.
“We work with our legislators as partners in addressing the energy burden of the people we serve. We update our legislators throughout the year and only ask for resources to supplement the federal fuel assistance allocation when it is absolutely necessary. We are grateful that policymakers have been very responsive over the years, a responsiveness that takes into account the real time conditions that threaten the health and safety of our vulnerable friends and neighbors around the state,” said Laura Meisenhelter, North Shore Community Action Program Executive Director and MASSCAP President.
Eligibility guidelines (snapshot of guidelines below) can be found at www.heatinghelpma.org. It is important to note that eligibility is based on the last four weeks of gross income.