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Massachusetts receives record $307M in heating assistance as temperatures fall and fuel prices rise

Massachusetts has a record $307.5 million in federal home heating assistance money available because through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March.

The White House reported this week that Massachusetts’ $307.5 million share is more than double the Bay State’s normal $120.5 million appropriation for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Those interested should apply directly with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

“As the temperatures plummet and the New England cold sets in, Massachusetts families will be able to afford energy costs and stay warm, safe, and healthy this winter thanks to the American Rescue Plan,” said U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield. “Many individuals and families are still recovering from the pandemic. This investment will ensure that they do not have to choose between putting food on the table or paying for heat.”

As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal was responsible for $941 billion, or about half, the total package of the American Rescue Plan.

U.S. Rep .James McGovern, D-Worcester, chairman of the House Rules Committee, spoke Monday on a White House conference call and touted the increased funding.

“No family should have to choose between paying their energy bills or paying for other necessities such as food or medicine during dangerously cold days. But too many families in the Second District have to make that awful choice,” McGovern said “Too many families lose sleep because they’re thinking about what they’re going to do — how they’re going to survive — when the utilities get shut off. And that’s why I also want to commend the White House for working with us to call on utility companies to prevent devastating utility shut-offs and help expedite the delivery of federal aid here in Massachusetts.”

The Biden-Harris Administration said it and Congressional Democrats delivered $8 billion in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding nationally. That number more than doubled typical annual appropriations due to $4.5 billion provided by the American Rescue Plan. This is the largest appropriation in a single year since the program was established in 1981, according to the White House.

For recipients, that meant that a person who would have received $600 in fuel assistance for the season will now get $1,650, said Suaneth Marrero, director of energy programs for the Valley Opportunity Council.

So far, The Valley Opportunity Council has about 5,000 clients who have confirmed their eligibility for the program and another 2,100 applications in the process of being confirmed. Of both those numbers, about 1,100 are new applicants who were not part of the program last year.

Many of the applicants have lost jobs or income to the COVID pandemic, she said. And the price of fuel has risen.

Heating oil averages $3.33 a gallon, according to the state. It was $2.43 a year ago at this time.

Propane is up 17.4% on the year.

Monday, Westfield Gas & Electric asked its customers to turn down thermostats during the cold snap[ not only to save themselves money but to save the utility because natural gas on the spot market went up 10-fold with the cold snap.

Read the original article HERE.

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