EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

February 13, 2014

No help against the cold

Families struggle as heating assistance money runs out

(Continued)

Cuneo said his agency has received many calls from families worried that they will have no heat for the rest of the winter.

He said Massachusetts was allocated $135.2 million from the federal government to help families stay warm, which is about the same as last year’s allocation. However, he said this has been a much colder winter than last year and is costing about 14 percent more to heat a home.

When the temperature drops to about 20 degrees, most heating systems will remain active all day long, Cuneo said. But in less harsh weather, between 30 and 40 degrees, heating units will cycle on and off, saving valuable fuel.

Cuneo said the average family receives $205 to $950 in heating assistance through Community Action, depending on their income and heating source. Last year the average family received about $550.

“This year’s average has dropped to about $385 per household and with the cold winter, we have experienced that the funds are exhausted very quickly,” Cuneo said.

The program received nearly 5,000 applications since November and 3,400 of those have been certified as eligible to receive benefits.

“Out of those eligible households, 1,351 have already used their total benefit for the year,” Cuneo said. “In addition, there are 653 oil heat customers who have less than $150 remaining in benefits so unless they can supplement the remaining funds with at least $200 they cannot get another tank of oil.”

Cuneo said the typical minimum oil delivery is 100 gallons. At today’s cost of $3.53 per gallon they would need about $350 or more to get a delivery.

In another effort to help area families stay warm, Community Action has established an Emergency No Heat Fund to help people facing a crisis of no heat at all. Cuneo said this is the first time his agency has reached out to the public for donations to help local families keep warm.

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