Heating help delay a travesty

The traditional start of the home heating season came this week, but for thousands of Boston families in need of assistance to cover the exorbitant cost of heating fuel, the news is bleak. Due largely to the intransigence in the nation’s capitol and the ongoing gridlock in Congress, for the first time in decades the season arrives with no fuel assistance available for poor and working class families.

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD,) the city’s official anti-poverty program, has efficiently and effectively operated a fuel assistance program for years. In one of the Federal government’s best programs, ABCD channels scarce federal dollars to small business oil vendors and energy companies to help defray heating costs for households in need.

Now, according to the agency, “for the first time in 30 years, ABCD and other fuel assistance programs across Massachusetts are unable to deliver desperately needed heating oil on November 1, the first day of the fuel assistance program. Every other year oil trucks have rolled across Massachusetts as fuel vendors make initial deliveries to hundreds of thousands of seniors and low-income working families who qualify for heating assistance under the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

“Now those families face a “D-Day” or “Delivery Day” with no funding from Washington to provide for oil deliveries or pay utility bills to prevent shut-offs. Without authorization from the federal government to the states, no deliveries can be made.”

And this week, as the month of November begins, the agency says millions of disadvantaged families who qualify for the program “see no help in sight for warding off the cold.”

More than 15,000 Boston families have already applied for assistance for this new heating season, and almost half of them were awaiting the first delivery of oil this week.

“People are desperate,” said John Drew, ABCD President/CEO. “They have been applying since July – wanting to ensure that their applications would be processed and the way paved for an oil delivery today. Now we can’t help them. The money is still sitting in Washington although the federal government has announced initial funding for the program at $1.7 billion.”

“We’ve got snow and bitter cold across Massachusetts,” he said. “It’s a terrible situation.”

Drew called on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to immediately release full fuel assistance funding of $192 million for Massachusetts at the $5.1 billion national level that was provided last year. Last year ABCD served 25,000 households, up from 17,000 in previous years. Across Massachusetts, 250,000 households received fuel assistance. This year programs anticipate a 10 percent increase in applications.

The federal government needs to speed things up fast. It may not be winter yet according to the calendar, but it sure feels like it. And needy families shouldn’t have to wait a moment longer for basic help that’s been promised them.

– Bill Forry

Get out and vote
The Reporter has not made any endorsement in either the district or at-large contests that will be on ballots in Dorchester and Mattapan next Tuesday, Nov. 8. However, we urge all of our readers to get out and vote in this important election. Polls are open from 7 a.m.- 8 p.m. For more in-depth coverage of the election, see our website, DotNews.com