PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo Rebecca Coburn, with her two children, Jonathan
, 2, and Patrick, 4 months, at their home at 33 Lewis St., Haverhill.
Community Action Executive Director John Cuneo said more than 1,300 households in the Haverhill, Amesbury and Newburyport area that are eligible for his agency's Heating Assistance Program have either exhausted their entire benefit due to the harsh winter or are getting close.
With federal money running out, Community Action
is asking state lawmakers to release $20 million to help offset federal cutbacks and help low-income people who have no more money available.
said many more local households are expected to run out of heating money over the coming weeks.
said that of all the households served by his
agency's heating assistance program, 75 percent have someone who is 60 or older, 5 or younger, is disabled or a veteran, or some combination of those.
agency has received many calls from families worried that they will have no heat for the rest of the winter.
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.
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
But in less harsh weather, between 30 and 40 degrees, heating units will cycle on and off, saving valuable fuel.
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
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
"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."
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.
said this is the first time his
agency has reached out to the public for donations to help local families keep warm.
said the lower price also applies to heating oil purchased for eligible clients by friends or family members.
said the price is about 20 to 30 cents per gallon less than the market price.
said the state is still waiting for $13.5 million from the federal government, but when it arrives that money will be used for new eligible participants and cannot be used to supplement families who have no benefit remaining.