Down at the East Boston APAC office, part of the Boston ABCD, residents are already signing up for their annual Fuel Assistance Program at the Meridian Street office that help[ low income residents stay warm this winter.
Last week, after pressure from a bipartisan group of Senators in Washington DC, the Obama Administration released crucial the first round Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will release the initial funding of $3.05 billion available in heating assistance — 90 percent of the funding available under the short term spending bill — which includes $131,897,023 for Massachusetts programs like APAC.
While the Department of Energy is forecasting that heating costs for consumers in the Northeast this winter will decline from last year, costs are projected to still be significantly higher than a few years ago. In the Northeast, the Department of Energy is forecasting that consumers heating with natural gas will spend $949 this winter, compared with $812 three years ago. Families using heating oil are projected to spend nearly $2,000 this winter, compared with $1,757 three years ago. Heating with propane in the Northeast is expected to cost $300 more than three years ago and heating costs for families using electricity have also risen over that time.
Already officials at East Boston APAC and its parent company Boston ABCD are concerned that a heating crisis is on the horizon if the federal government does not fully fund the federal fuel assistance program that helps thousands of Eastie residents heat their homes during the harsh winter months. APAC already kicked off its fuel assistance program this week and the office anticipates the line will be out the door at the agency’s Meridian Street office.
APAC and ABCD President/CEO John Drew predicts application for fuel assistance this year will outnumber years past with the average Eastie household needing 4-5 tanks of oil to get through the winter.
“In the first week we will most likely have processed over 100 applications,” said Drew. “The good news is that we take applications until the end of April and if you qualify for fuel assistance they will reimburse you back to November 1 so we encourage people to make an appointment to fill out an application.”
While the government has released the first round of fuel assistance moneys and APAC has begun filling oil tanks in Eastie, the program has not been fully funded.
“We are grateful to our Massachusetts Senators Warren and Markey and to the many others who have signed this letter,” Drew said. “At ABCD we already have more than 10,000 applications for fuel assistance and there are thousands more statewide.
APAC and also ABCD is launching its Winter Emergency Campaign to raise funds, gather warm clothing, and carry out a number of initiatives to help people in need survive the cold winter months.