ABCD Fuel Assistance Running on Empty

The North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center and parent company Boston ABCD have entered crisis mode. With a little over two months left in the federal fuel assistance program that helps thousands of North Enders heat their homes during the harsh winter months, federal fuel aid for this program has run out.

With the average North End household needing 4-5 tanks of oil to get through the winter, people who use oil are running on empty.

ABCD President John Drew said with home heating oil hovering around $4 per gallon all of the North End and ABCD’s fuel assistance customers have used up their benefits for oil this year.

Last year, Drew got the state to kick in $21 million to make up for federal budget cuts to the fuel assistance program and is looking for the state to offer emergency funds again this winter.

“We have a lot of terrified people who can’t see how they are going to survive,” he said. “We ask the Governor and legislature to step up to the plate and help alleviate the massive suffering that is occurring right now.”

Drew called cold weather a killer.

“Every year there are frail seniors who succumb to hypothermia or people who die in house fires caused by using unsafe space heaters or cooking stoves to try and stay warm,” said Drew. “We have to provide protection for our most vulnerable seniors and young families.”

In October Drew called on Washington to fully fund the federal fuel assistance program at $5.1 billion to avert a “natural disaster” on par with the hurricanes and floods that have descended on the nation in recent months. Funding since 2010 has steadily declined from $5.1 billion to $3.47 billion last year.

Drew said that families in the North End  who qualify for fuel assistance would most likely receive $750 but that number is $350 less than what the poorest families here need to heat their homes during the harsh New England winter.

He said while money for Fuel Assistance programs like The North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center will be more than last year there are more people in need for fuel assistance during this down economy.

The funding right now, said Drew, is totally inadequate