By John Lynds
As the weather gets colder Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Energy Programs Director Kathy Tobin expects more residents will be signing up for the annual Fuel Assistance Program at ABCD’s Meridian Street APAC office.
This year APAC and ABCD will help thousands of resident in Eastie and across the city stay warm this winter. Tobin said already this year, the amount of residents signing up for fuel assistance is about the same as last year but that number is expected to rise.
“The numbers are about the same as last year,” said Tobin. “But as the weather gets colder more clients will sign up.”
So far APAC and the ABCD’s other community sites have received more than 23,000 applications for fuel assistance and are on track for the same amount this year.
However, the number of applicants is proof that federal funds need to be increased to meet the demand during New England’s harsh winters. The maximum benefits for residents are down this year by $200.
“The program for fuel assistance is a federally funded program and these funds are down from last year,” said Tobin. “Last year the maximum benefit was $1,050. This year it is $850. Some donations have come in which can help. However, the program relies upon the federal dollars to fund the program to help all those who apply.”
Despite a decrease in the benefits Tobin said Eastie residents should always apply regardless of the maximum benefit level because other energy services become available to these households once they qualify for Fuel Assistance.
“We can weatherize a home, repair or replace a heating system, place the household on the utility discount rate so their gas and electric bills will be less expensive and direct these qualifying households to Arrearage Forgiveness programs to lessen their debt and prevent termination of services,” said Tobin.
In Eastie ABCD and APAC kicked off a Winter Emergency Campaign to help offset the decrease in federal funding. Local Organizations like the East Boston Land Use Council have kicked in money to help Eastie families keep heating oil in their tanks.
So far the Winter Emergency Campaign has raised over $90,000 since mid-November through donations and grants.
“Our individual donors have ranged from $15 to one gift of $10,000,” said Tobin. “We have received grants so far from the Boston Foundation, BNY Mellon, an anonymous foundation, as well as the Land Use Council.”
ABCD President and CEO John Drew added that there is, “The additional concern that oil prices are higher than this time last year and with lower benefits more people will need additional help, thus our Winter Emergency Campaign. Everybody needing assistance absolutely should apply.”