Advocates for Elderly, Poor Call for Fuel Assistance

(NECN: Alysha Palumbo) - "I press this button here, you want the heat to come on."

84-year-old John MacPherson is doing everything he can to keep his Dorchester home warm this winter.

"I just can't take the cold anymore like I used to."

He's one of thousands people in Boston who rely on fuel assistance from the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program through Action for Boston Community Development - or ABCD.

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"They only allotted us so much and what I did when I ran out of oil last year, I had to use my whole social security check to fill the tank again and I done it again this year."

But this year the fuel assistance program has been slashed in half.

Kathy Tobin, ABCD Energy Programs Dir.
"The maximum benefit is $515, it costs more than $800 to fill an oil tank."

And it will stay that way unless Congress acts before Sunday to pass the tax cut bill, which includes an earmark for heating assistance.

"Over the past three years we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of people applying and the funding continues to go down, the weather is colder and the price of oil is going up, it just doesn't make any sense."

So as ABCD waits to hear if more money will be available to help with heating bills, more and more Massachusetts residents like Mike McCarthy of Brighton continue to apply.

Mike McCarthy, Brighton / 61-yrs-old
"I've been out of work a year and a half now and it's rough."

McCarthy's out of oil and his space heater isn't cutting it anymore.

"Last night in my apartment it was reading 35 degrees."

John MacPherson has a full oil tank today thanks to ABCD, but he doesn't know how long that will last him.

"I get by, I laugh at everything, but inside it's different you know, I put the show on, I'm always smiling, I don't cry about nothing, if I ain't got it, I ain't got it."

But it's harder to explain to his 13 grandkids that grandpa may not be able to afford Christmas gifts this year.

"Well I don't know what we're going to do this year :34 I'm trying to figure it out how I'm going to work it out :36 because I like to give each one of the kids something."

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