Northeast states cut heating aid to poor

Heating Aid Cuts
Toby Talbot

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2008, file photo, heating oil is delivered to a home in Barre, Vt. Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult 2011 winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mary Power is 92 and worried about surviving another frigid New England winter because deep cuts in federal home heating assistance benefits mean she probably can't afford enough heating oil to stay warm.

She lives in a drafty trailer in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood and gets by on $11,148 a year in pension and Social Security benefits. Her heating aid help this year will drop from $1,035 to $685. With rising heating oil prices, it probably will cost her more than $3,000 for enough oil to keep warm unless she turns her thermostat down to 60 degrees, as she plans.

"I will just have to crawl into bed with the covers over me and stay there," said Power, a widow who worked as a cashier and waitress until she was 80. "I will do what I have to do."

Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government.

"They're playing Russian roulette with people's lives," said John Drew, who heads Action for Boston Community Development, Inc., which provides aid to low-income residents in Massachusetts.

The issue could flare just as New Hampshire votes in the Republican presidential primary.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she hopes the candidates will take up the region's heating aid crunch because it underscores how badly the country needs a comprehensive energy policy.

Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits to families as Congress considers cutting more than $1 billion from last year's $4.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that served nearly 9 million households.

Families in New England, where the winters are long and cold and people rely heavily on costly oil heat, are expected to be especially hard hit. Many poor and elderly people on fixed incomes struggle with rising heating bills that can run into thousands of dollars. That can force them to cut back on other necessities like food or medicine.

"The winter of 2011-12 could be memorable for the misery and suffering of thousands of frigid households," New Hampshire's Concord Monitor newspaper said in an editorial. "Heating oil prices are expected to hit record highs, and federal fuel assistance may reach a record low for recent years."

Higher home heating oil prices and more families seeking aid due to the sour economy are straining resources. There's a 10 percent surge in new applicants in Boston, Drew said.

"Our whole program could hit a rock soon," said Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.

Families can expect to pay, on average, about $3,300 to heat a home with oil this winter in New England, Wolfe said. That's about $500 more than last winter. About half of the region's homes use oil heat.

Congress, which is locked in a bitter battle over reducing spending, still must decide how much money to give the program for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

In fall 2008, amid concerns about rising fuel prices, the government nearly doubled fuel assistance, releasing $5.1 billion to states for the following winter.

But last February, President Barack Obama proposed cutting the program nearly in half, calling for about $2.5 billion. The House is considering $3.4 billion for fuel assistance, while the Senate reviews a $3.6 billion proposal.

Snowe, along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are pushing for $4.7 billion, last year's funding level, but they face long odds.

The government has given an initial round of funding, $1.7 billion, to the states.

In Maine, one of the coldest states, the average benefit has been reduced by about $500. The state's average benefit last winter was about $800 among 63,842 households served. The average income of recipients was $16,757. About 80 percent of Maine households use oil heat.

"It's a very serious situation," Dale McCormick, director of MaineHousing, a state agency that administers heating aid, said. "We can't send out money we don't have."

That view is shared by home heat aid advocates across New England and into New York and Pennsylvania. Most of those states have cut benefits. New Hampshire has tightened eligibility requirements.

Vermont's average benefit was cut from $866 to $474. New York's maximum benefit this year is $500, down from $700 last winter. Pennsylvania's minimum benefit is dropping from $300 last year to $100, Wolfe said.

"We have a lot of terrified people who can't see how they are going to survive," said Drew.

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Edward Catterton's picture

Budget Cuts for Fuel Assistance

Maybe if some of our elected officials were to go out and get a real job after their terms in office was over instead of living off the good people who elected them in the first place there would be enough money for heat for the North East and a lot more I'm sure, but you decide for yourselves, heres what some get for a yearly pay check after leaving office,

Salary of retired US Presidents .............$450,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of House/Senate members ..........$174,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of Speaker of the House ..............$223,500 FOR LIFE
Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders .....$193,400 FOR LIFE

just saying....

Jacqueline Libby DeLasso's picture

wrong job

You said that right, dang i guess if we learned at an early age how to promise
what we would do for our states and country, if elected,take away what was not
going to affect our lives, or tax more ridiculous items, or make us cold, or make it difficult to figure
out whether to eat, or have meds.imagine..we could have that income too!! lol!

 's picture


im a single mom working and living paycheck to paycheck. I have to pay my rent a little at a time. i can't afford to do laundry, or buy my daughter new clothes or even fix my vehicle let alone pay for heat. each month i have to decide which bill to pay and which bill to let slide. this month my phone was shut off. so was my cable and I'm taking online classes. my heat assitance is 180.00 per month enough for approx 50 gallons. unfortunately most oil companies only deliver a minimum of 100 gals. i cant afford 50 gals what makes you think i can afford 100 gals. 50 gals wont last a week. i dont have control over the thermostat either. The government needs to stop worrying about cutting health care and heating. why don't they cut down on their vacations, and that new car they just bought. the majority of us that are receiving help would rather be able to afford it on our own. I would go cold if i had to but i have an 8 yr old. They keep cutting down on the things we need help with the most.

Jacqueline Libby DeLasso's picture

Northeast states cut heating aid to poor

Seriously?????? Well why not, the government really could care less,
as they are in thier nice warm houses, or estates, that our tax dollars
pay for!
Haven't they cut enough programs and funding? These are our senior
citizens who have more than enough paid thier dues, now in thier
golden years get treated unfairly, where is the dignity in that?
Oh wait, we are too concerned with illegals citizens, and giving them
all the benefits, or sending all our money over to other countries, who
eventually will just start another war we can stick our nose in.
This just ticks me off so bad. I love our country, just too bad they
did not look out for thier own.
Our state is as bad, Maine is cutting everything, from funding for
special needs, to our elderly housing and their medical benefits. In a handbasket this country is going to Hades. Enough said I guess, I am sure I will get flack, but I did my time in the Navy, as are my fellow shipmates who give us the right to speak freely!

 's picture


have you noticed the refugees each have the latest phone, or a nice new vehicle, even the newest style clothes or sneakers. They didn't have what they have in their native home. What about the people here don't we count? I would love to have the latest phone or a new car or one that isn't falling apart. money to start a business etc... just saying

Jacqueline Libby DeLasso's picture

You are so right! Girl, I was

You are so right! Girl, I was in your shoes once upon a time, and like you, worked my butt off,
supported my daughter. Dang, it was hard to make ends meet, I remember saving tips to split up
among my bills and rent. Learned to eat alot of Kraft Mac & Cheese, hot dogs
and alot of rice! Like you, had meager assistance. When I did not have a job, I had to
go from place to place with a paper to verify I had applied, and WE were checked on. Unlike today
the attitude is..oh you are not from here, don't speak english, need a job...awww let us help you..
kind of like rob from those who do try to give to those who just hold out thier hand, and do not
have to do a darn thing to earn it.

 's picture

no balance

again and again the poor must bear the brunt of budget balance, here the poor have their heating assistance cut. Now if we ask the rich to pay the same percentage as the rest of us then its called class warfare!!!


Many issues here!

Most of America is NOT being fairly represented by our current Congress. Oil companies price gouge and our State and Federal representatives who are, "bought and paid for" do or say nothing! Record profits for EXXON MOBILE and Congress votes to retain the tax credit for job exporters, thanks Senator Snowe and Collins. Also, no tax increase for Millionaires, Sen Collins said, "... It will hurt the job CREATORS". What planet has she been on for the last 20 years or so?? They are EXPORTING JOBS, NOT CREATING THEM!! And last and worst of all, we have an overgrown, top-heavy and inefficient welfare system that provides no incentives for able-bodied folks to work and improve their lives!!

My Wife and I have worked all our lives and raised six children. We have never received fuel assistance and we cannot afford to burn heating oil!! We burn wood. It is dirtier and takes more work; but, that does not hurt us in any way! Our welfare system wastes the Taxpayer's $$$$. To the people who don't want to work, you are a parasite and should move South.

Merry Christmas to the rest of us.

 's picture


im on welfare because i dont have a choice. i dont get child support i am a single mom i work i go without so my daughter can have things. if it weren't for my daughter i would be working three fulltime jobs etc... without any assistance. even if i work 3 jobs now id only be working to support my babysitter and never see my daughter. I saw someone at walmart with a sign,, traveling home. broke anything will help. if you are broke why are you traveling. stay in one place get a job. there are jobs.. you just got to look.

Jacqueline Libby DeLasso's picture

Holding Sign

I saw that once, a perfectly healthy young man..I went back gave him a dollar and an application to McDonalds! No one is too good to flip burgers if you are desparate enough!

 's picture


This is so stupid. Stop sending money to all the countries that hate us anyway and spend it on making AMERICANS comfortable. Obama must use prophonol to sleep at night.

David Marsters's picture

Heating oil

I feel sorry for people that can't afford heating oil. In this country oil should be 25 cents a gallon. It all has to do with greed from the oil companys like Exxon etc. How can they justify 40 billoin dollars profit in one quarter and people are freezing to death in USA. Why is it that this country is giving Canada trouble in getting oil from them with a pipeline to us.All pols should be thrown out as they are very greedy also. I would go along with one term limit for 6 yrs for all pols in this country including the President. Do away with all their perks.


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