Media Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 9, 2019                                                                                          Contact:  Ellen M. Ganley, Director of Development  508 762-9807
EGanley@WCAC.net 
Urgent Need: Immediate State Fuel Assistance Allocation
Community Action advocates urge $30 million immediate allocation 
to avert public health and safety crisis

Community Action advocates gather at the State House to call upon Governor Baker to allocate $30M in state supplemental budget to support fuel assistance program.
Boston, Massachusetts - Representatives from Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. today joined the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) and its community action colleagues from throughout the Commonwealth at the State House in Boston to call for the inclusion of $30 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next FY19 Supplemental Budget.

In what has literally become a matter of life and death for some, advocates are asking Governor Baker and Massachusetts legislators to provide the state funding to help households living with low income heat their homes to avert a potential public health and safety crisis.  Households that heat with delivered fuels such as home heating oil are particularly vulnerable. At close to $3 per gallon for heating oil, the fuel assistance benefit will allow oil heat households to cover the cost of 1¾ tanks of oil - a real and dangerous problem when it takes 3-4 tanks to get a typical household through tough New England winters.

Most of the close to 48,000 oil heat households throughout the state have exhausted their fuel assistance benefit and all will have exhausted it by the end of January, leaving them in a perilous position for the rest of the winter. Vulnerable households faced with limited ability to cover heating costs may engage in dangerous alternative heating approaches such as the improper use of space heaters, kitchen stoves and fire places leading to the threat of fire danger and carbon monoxide poisoning. An immediate state allocation of $30 million would help oil heat households get past January and into February.

Newly elected State Representative David LeBoeuf was among local legislators who attended the press conference to show his support.
"The need is very real here in Central Massachusetts, and 
throughout the Commonwealth," said WCAC Executive Director Jill Dagilis. "We urge our elected officials to join us in our efforts to protect these vulnerable households and make sure that nobody is left in the cold this winter."

"With the arrival of colder temperatures comes the realization that for many, the option of turning up the thermostat does not exist," said WCAC's Director of Energy Resources Mary Knittle. "Many households are forced to make trade-offs that jeopardize their health - including unsafe heating practices and having to choose heat over food or health care. We want people to know WCAC can help."

The federal fuel assistance resource or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps families and individuals living in poverty across the state help residents afford heat and address other heating challenges. That resource over the past several years has dropped from $200 million to $145 million for Massachusetts.  Over the past 12 years, the Governor and the Legislature have provided supplemental fuel assistance resources in response to limited federal funding and grave weather conditions. 

The fuel assistance program, administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, and carried out by community action agencies and other community groups, is set up to allow for new applicants throughout the heating season, anytime between November 1st and April 30th. Statewide, applications are up over last year at this time. Households that have not accessed fuel assistance yet should do so as soon as possible.

"Winter is not going to end on March 22 because March 23 is the first day of spring," Liz Berube of Fall River's Citizens for Citizens said. "Massachusetts is going to be cold in March, and it's going to be cold in April. It's just the way it is."
The concern is for those households that have already accessed fuel assistance resources and because of the harsh weather have or will soon exhaust the benefit and not be able to cover heating costs for the rest of the long winter. In 2018, 42% of LIHEAP households served by WCAC were elderly; 15% were homes to children under six; 41% reported earned income (wages, self-employed).

MASSCAP is joined by a diverse coalition of organizations in its support for a state fuel assistance line item including: the AARP, the Children's Health Watch at the Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association (formerly the Massachusetts Oil Heat Council), the National Consumer Law Center, and Mass Home Care.

WCAC's program serves the following communities: Worcester, Auburn, Brookfield, Boylston, Charlton, Charlton City, Charlton Depot, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Holden, Jefferson, Leicester, Cherry Valley, Rochdale, Millbury, North Brookfield, Oakham, Oxford, North Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Fiskdale, Sutton, Manchaug, Warren, West Warren, Webster, West Boylston, and West Brookfield.  Visit www.HeatingHelpMA.org to find the fuel assistance provider for communities not within WCAC's service area.

Additional information as well as specific eligibility requirements are also available on WCAC's website, www.WCAC.net .

About WCAC

Since 1965, the Worcester Community Action Council has served as the federally designated anti-poverty agency for central and southern Worcester County, with a mission of helping people move to economic self-sufficiency through programs, partnerships and advocacy.

Serving the City of Worcester and 45 neighboring communities of Auburn, Blackstone, Boylston, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holden, Holland, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Grafton, Leicester, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Palmer, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, Wales, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield and Westborough.  
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