Cold Temperatures Hit Home
Local families struggling to stay warm this winter
Quincy, Mass. (January 11, 2018) – Quincy Community Action Programs Inc. (QCAP) is urging Governor Charlie Baker and members of the Massachusetts legislature to include $25 million for Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the next FY 18 Supplemental Budget. The request follows the recent stretch of extreme weather conditions that affected New England, placing many families at risk for the rest of the winter season.
“The weather forced many families to run their heating systems virtually non-stop,” said Beth Ann Strollo, QCAP’s Chief Executive Officer. “Those additional heating costs are burdensome for all families, but dire for families who are struggling financially, including seniors, the disabled, and children.”
At close to $3 per gallon for heating oil, the current federally-funded fuel assistance benefit will allow oil heat households to cover the cost of 1½ tanks of oil. On average, a typical household uses 3-4 tanks of heating oil to get through cold and snowy New England winters. However, when temperatures are below 10 degrees, as the region experienced over the last few weeks, a household could go through 100 gallons in less than a week.
The average benefit for eligible families is $1,100. To date, of the 1,800 households that QCAP certified as eligible for fuel assistance, 67%, or roughly 1,200 households have less than $250 in funds left for the season, including more than 650 households who heat with oil. QCAP has seen double the number of new applicants reporting a heat emergency compared to this time last year, meaning those with less than 1/8 tank of oil left. Though clients who heat with oil are most urgently at risk, clients who heat with gas or electric may face debilitating bills throughout the summer months.
“There is no doubt that the vast majority of our clients will be out of their heating assistance in the next few weeks,” said Strollo. “The $25 million will help ensure this extreme weather does not cause a major public health and safety crisis.”
While QCAP is urging Massachusetts lawmakers to increase the individual benefit level through the supplemental budget, there is still funding available for new applicants. The agency encourages low-income residents and families to apply for funding to help them with their heating costs.
“It is important that families struggling with heating costs to call QCAP to apply as soon as possible,” said Strollo. “We can also connect families with other types of resources to help with their overall budget.”
QCAP is the LIHEAP provider for the towns of Braintree, Milton, Quincy, and Weymouth. Residents can apply by calling QCAP’s Energy Program at 617.657.5301.