With temperatures in Boston expected to dip into the 20s at night this week and not exceed 54 degrees for the next few days many low-income residents will be left out in the cold.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty in the neighborhood as job loss, food insecurity and loss of income has become more prevalent and many residents will find it hard to pay their heating bill this winter.
However, there’s relief from paying those high New England heating costs for hundreds of low-income residents in the neighborhood.
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) recently kicked off the annual Fuel Assistance Program at ABCD offices in the South End and Chinatown.
Residents can apply by calling ABCD Fuel Assistance at 617-357-6012 or get in-person help with applications at ABCD’s South End Neighborhood Service Center, 554 Columbus Avenue; the Asian American Civic Association, 87 Tyler Street, 5th floor; or the Harrison Avenue Head Start & Children’s Services, 595 Harrison Avenue.
There is also a new online system for first-time fuel assistance that can be accessed at toapply.org/MassLIHEAP.
ABCD administers the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for income-eligible residents in Boston, Brookline, Newton and seven communities north of Boston. Last year ABCD provided fuel assistance to more than 25,000 households.
ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew thanked the Biden-Harris administration for deploying an unprecedented $4.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to mitigate the burden of skyrocketing home heating costs for lower-income families across the nation.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Drew. “We know that LIHEAP keeps households running — and saves lives. The ARP funding is a major commitment at the highest levels to the well-being of at-risk seniors and people living with disabilities, to hard-working families struggling to make ends meet. Frigid winter temperatures are here now and inflation is on the rise. The president’s call to action is a rallying cry for those of us in the ‘supply chain’ to communicate, collaborate, and implement as seamlessly as possible.”
The Biden administration officials call for all parties to coordinate efforts to ensure the swift deployment of funds. The $4.5 billion in American ARP funding expands on the November 4th U.S. Health & Human Services allocation of $3.3 billion, bringing total federal LIHEAP funding this winter heating season to $7.8 billion – more than twice the normal annual expenditure.
“Massachusetts has an outstanding record for implementation of federal funding initiatives,” said Drew. “We thank Governor Charlie Baker in advance for expediting LIHEAP funding at a time when the cost of energy has sky-rocketed! These additional funds will increase benefits substantially.”
Drew said right now the fuel assistance benefit for Boston residents at the lowest income levels or 100 percent of poverty is $1,030. ABCD estimates that at least $2,000 will be needed to heat an average home for the season.The 2021 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 in Boston earning $78,751 or a single person with an income of $40,951 may currently qualify for $618 in fuel assistance.
However, once the new ARP funds are received the benefits should double according to Drew.
“This week, home heating oil in Massachusetts is at $3.43 a gallon and up, almost twice the cost last year,” said Drew. “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.”