Fuel Aid is Up but Lacking

What happens when low-income families run out of Fuel Assistance and can’t marshal up about $800 to fill their oil tank?

The live in the cold.

CAPIC Executive Director Bob Repucci said his agency – which serves Winthrop, Chelsea and Revere for Fuel Assistance – has seen time and again where people have gone several days in the dead of winter with no heat.

“People are just going cold,” he said. “When they exhaust their benefits in the program, there aren’t many other resources available. They keep the temperatures down. It’s not unusual for us to find people with no oil and who have had no oil for days and days. They will take the money for oil out of their rent or out of their food budget. Sometimes we have to negotiate with landlords to keep people in their homes because they spent their rent money on oil.”

Last year, by the end of the heating season, Repucci said the state and federal government had been very generous – dishing out a benefit of about $1,200 per household. This year, the preliminary benefit is at $740, which is above the early numbers from last year.

And Repucci is quick to add that the state or federal government could increase the assistance to give a greater benefit later in the winter.

However, at current prices, even last year’s generous benefits don’t go very far.

“The president has to make a move to flood the market with affordable oil,” said Repucci. “We ask our clients to call members of Congress. That’s really who needs to pick up the lion’s share of this. We can’t let them forget about people who are cold.”

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