Fuel Assistance Funds Run Out for Many Mass. Families - NECN

Fuel Assistance Funds Run Out for Many Mass. Families



    Thousands of Bay State families struggling to heat their homes (Published Friday, Jan. 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Katelyn Tivnan) - There's still several weeks left in winter, but tens of thousands of families across the Bay State have run out of fuel assistance funds. Now, both state and federal lawmakers are being urged to help out.

    “Had some delivered yesterday...1200 dollars, almost fell off my chair,” says Dorris Monroe.

    Thousands of people in Massachusetts are struggling this winter to heat their homes. Many are forced to choose between groceries, gas and heat.

    “They call here, they're crying, they're elderly wearing hats and gloves in their houses,” says Mary Knittle, director of energy for WCAC.

    Knittle works for the Worcester Community Action Council. She says this year alone they have received 15,000 requests for heating assistance. The group is one of 24 agencies urging state lawmakers for more fuel assistance funding- as soon as possible.

    “Have about 1,000 clients with some of their benefits remaining but don't have enough for 100 gallons so they know there's benefits but can't use it so their homes are cold, their kids are cold.”

    At the Friendly House in Worcester, Josefina Velez fields hundreds of requests for help from the community. She says with the cold winter, many people are relying on their food pantry and winter clothes to help make ends meet.

    “A lot of families and working families have to decide between paying the light bill putting food on the table or keeping their houses warm.”

    More than 200,000 homes in the state rely on fuel assistance.

    Without additional state funding, fuel assistance aid will be at least 11 million less than last year.

    Velez is urging clients to contact their local legislators.

    Monroe says while she has enough to get by, she’s already looking to the future.

    “When you get a check and it’s not much, you need to figure out what's important,” Monroe says, “and heat to an elderly person is important.”