More local notes, quotes on fuel assistance in Mass.

Staff reports

Feel free to use the extra notes and quotes provided here in your version of the fuel assistance story. Check under each person's title to see which program covers your town or city.

Cathy Tobin

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), director of energy programs; also serves Brookline and Newton

To date, ABCD has received almost 20,500 applications. “The season isn’t over yet.” They got about 22,000 applications last year. Applications are up about 10 percent year-to-date.

Says budget figure provided by the state may be a little high; thinks ABCD got closer to $13 million, rather than $13.46 million.

Asking how much of their budget they’ve spent so far is meaningless because oil companies and utilities don’t immediately submit for payment, so there may still be bills out there yet unpaid.

Heating oil prices: “It’s a lifetime high. We’ve never, ever seen prices like this before, and to stay so high for so long. It’s just not in sync with what the price of oil is in the world market per barrel.”

It has nothing to do with the oil vendors around there; it has to do with the large oil companies that provide the oil at the rack. It’s Exxon, Mobil, etc.

“What we do know is whatever’s happening, it’s falling on the backs of our most vulnerable populations, and it’s been a tragic winter because of the colder temperatures for a consistently long time, and the snow. That makes for extremely difficult conditions for people.”

If a resident gets three or four deliveries in any season, and each one minimally is almost $700 for less than a full tank, you’re up to a bill of $2,800 for season.

Max benefit is down from last year; this year it’s $1,090.

A combination of factors drive people to seek assistance. “I do believe that sometimes, a lot of our clients, given the winter heating season is November through April, they forego things they do need – medicine, food,” utility bills, etc., to manage budget. They can’t afford heat and other expenses.

“It’s a juggling act.”

Proposed cut to LIHEAP: “It’s devastating.” This past winter, people were getting notices saying they’re not eligible and calling back in tears saying, ‘How can I do this?’ It will be worse next year. The cuts could slash the maximum benefit to $400-$500. “That will run out the first month of the program in November. It won’t even get people near the most critical period.”

ABCD hopes president and Congress will do the right thing and fully fund LIHEAP instead of sacrificing quality of life for the most vulnerable people.

Rita Carvalho

Action Inc., energy director; serves Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Ipswich, Manchester, Hamilton, Wenham

Action Inc. has gotten 2,600 applications so far. That’s about even with the total for the full season last year, which was 2,620 applications.

“It’s been a really challenging year.” With foreclosures, folks still losing their jobs, “the awful craze” in the rising price of oil.

A 275-gallon tank costs almost $1,060 to fill. Highest benefit for LEHEAP this year is $1,090, which is a little bit of a cut from last year.

Thus far they should have enough funding to meet the demand this winter, but some people have maxed out their benefits. In those cases, Action Inc. is telling people to call local charities or Citizens Energy.

“For a lot of folks, once that oil price spikes, when you have little income, you don’t have anywhere else to turn but to ask other sources like churches to help.” Many have low wages or fixed incomes.

Natural gas clients are not struggling as much because the price is not as high this year. But for those who’ve had trouble keeping up with bills or don’t have the resources to pay, they’ll start to get worried at the end of the shutoff moratorium at the end of April.

Action Inc.’s big worry is cuts to LIHEAP. “It’s a life and death program. If this program got cut in half, people would be out of benefits by the time they walked in the door.”

Cuts could lead to people not even getting through the beginning of winter, financially speaking. “We’re always afraid of that year where we’re not going to be able to help people or refer them to other places because the funds just won’t be there for them.” We as a country should be responsible with the little funding there is and think about the population with really basic needs.

The second half of winter, they always see a rise in applications. Some existing clients move or get better jobs, but new ones come. It’s kind of a revolving door. But there’s always a population living on fixed income – Social Security or pensions – or just low wages.

“We try to do a lot of outreach. We work with the state and utility companies trying to get messages out.”

They’re open through April 30 and can pay on past bills for winter. Bills from Nov. 1-April 30 are eligible. It’s based on household size and gross income. They also run a home weatherization program, which can cut bills and make the house more efficient.

Jack Mogielnicki

Lynn Economic Opportunity, executive director; serves Lynn, Lynnfield, Saugus, Nahant, Swampscott, Wakefield

Had 4,887 applications so far this season. That’s just 10 less than last year at this time. Think the important thing to note is this year and last year are comparable; a big jump happened in the previous two years, when people were being laid off.

“It seems to me we used to do something just over the 4,000 range. We’ll top 5,000 this year, we topped 5,000 last year.”

It’s very depressing. “I’ve been around quite a while. I remember this program in the early ‘80s, when we would have $750 for each of the lowest income families. But oil was in the 55-cent range.” So the benefit was enough to pay for multiple tanks and keep people warm most of the season, if not all.

“It has been very depressing to note that the program has not kept up with the price of oil and the demand for heat that every family kind of needs to survive the winter.”

His program pays a “margin over rack” price for oil; it’s a fixed surcharge added to the wholesale price, but is less than retail. Last year, the margin over rack price was $2.556. This year, today, it’s $3.501. “It’s a 95-cent differential.”

LEO has a large child care presence – they run preschool and after-school programs. “It’s difficult thinking about these kids consistently going home to a house that’s consistently set at 58 and throwing on sweaters.”

It has been depressing in the course of his 30 years here to see the growth of the general population of low-income people, with real economic gains really only at the top of the income food chain.

Proposed cuts: “Any of these cuts affect programs that were never wealthy or fully funded to begin with, and are just very, very substantial and affect pretty much the absolutely poorest members of society – elderly people, people that can’t defend themselves and just need society to lend them a hand.”

Beth Hogan

North Shore Community Action Programs, executive director; serves Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Danvers, Hamilton, Wenham, Marblehead, Middleton

They’ve got 4,251 applications so far this year. That’s an increase of 5 percent over fiscal 2010, year to date. The program goes through the end of April.

They probably won’t get that many more applications, but they will get more. They’ll certify those that came in late, and they’ll get emergency calls.

“At the end of the season, we get a lot of people who have overspent their budget and they’re going to go into the following fall in a deficit, maybe owing their oil company or gas company money.” That accounts for a significant number of applications.

Last year, they had 4,499 applications, which represented a 7 percent increase over the previous year. They approved 3,688 of those applications.

“The thing that’s interesting is the biggest jump that we experienced was between FY08 and FY09.”

In ‘08 to ‘09, they saw a 22 percent increase. “I think when people are upset about this cut, it’s not just that it’s going to mean fewer people can apply, but it fails to take into recognition how many families began to suffer economically who hadn’t applied for benefits before.”

Not only a 22 percent increase, but a 48 percent increase in first-time applicants that year. “Our experience is those families that entered our system for the first time are pretty much coming back and reapplying.” So a huge surge in need from families who hadn’t needed help before and need help now.

“We can’t do more with less. This is a very basic need that people absolutely need access to.”

When people don’t have enough money to pay for heat, then they don’t pay their rent. Then people have a problem because they get a month or two behind in rent and their tenancy is at risk. “There are a huge number of ramifications with cuts in LIHEAP.”

Energy prices continue to climb and the LIHEAP benefit went down. If cut, they’re probably able to serve more households with less. If you’re only getting a $755 deliverable fuel benefit because you’re at 175 percent of poverty level, that’s maybe one tank. You’re maxed out by, say, mid-January. You’ve still got a long winter to go. Right now, you’re hitting the end of season and the price is skyrocketing.

“Typically, low-income people are not in a position to be able to lock in their price at the beginning of the season.”

Bruce Morell

People Acting in Community Endeavors, executive director; serves 7 towns, including Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester

They’ve seen two increases in their original budget for the year, for a total of more than $11m. The first was based on the continuing resolution first passed, which should’ve taken place on Dec. 18, but the Obama administration sat on their hands for a month before they released the additional funding.

About two weeks later, Mass. got about another $8m, or about $40 a client, but that was almost counterproductive. Once a client exhausts their eligibility for oil, they get another $40, but oil dealers won’t go out to deliver less than 100 gallons.

On clients: “They’re getting hammered with the price of oil.”

“It’s a very frustrating year.”

The real story is the price of oil. “Anyone who heats with oil has exhausted their benefits.”

There was a three-month period in 2008, when prices skyrocketed, but it was in the summer. During the recession, the price of oil dropped.

“This is definitely the highest I’ve ever seen for an extended period of time.”

“I just don’t know how people on limited means, on a pension or a fixed income, can do that.”

They usually do expend all their annual funding by the end of year. Hard to tell at this point because utility bills have yet to come in. “I expect that we will exhaust that.”

Most low and moderate income housing, rental, is very old. They didn’t lend themselves to central heat very well. A lot of people in their coverage area have space heaters, so they’re using natural gas. A little more than 60 percent of clients. That’s a good thing this year.

So far they’ve taken over 13,000 applications and certified over 11,000. They are still certifying. Last year they took about 14,000 and served just over 13,000 households. Will likely be similar to last year.

The benefit for oil is down a bit from last year and the year before. “There was a significant change in the program” about two years ago. Congress really bumped up funding in response to $140 cost of a barrel of oil. At the state level, they were able for first time to expand the income guidelines.

“There are people now who were getting fuel assistance benefits three years ago wouldn’t have been eligible.” 200 percent of poverty was the max until then. Because of additional funding, went to 60 percent of state median income, a fairly significant jump in the number of eligible people. That’s good, given the high cost of living in Massachusetts.

Re: proposed cut for next year – Obama said it’s because energy prices are lower. “All that tells me is he obviously doesn’t pay the bill when the oil dealer shows up at the White House.”

There’s widespread support for this program. People think all these poor people get free money, but they don’t. The utilities and oil dealers get the money. “We deal with a lot of seniors who keep the house in the low sixties and add on sweaters … but they’re able to survive through the winter because of this.”

Out of $10m, NStar will likely get $6.5m in accounts that otherwise likely would’ve gone delinquent.

Jonathan Carlson

Self Help Inc., executive director; serves Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Canton, Dedham, East Bridgewater, Easton, Foxboro, Franklin, Hanson, Holbrook, Mansfield, Middleborough, Needham, Norfolk, North Attleborough, Norton, Norwood, Plainville, Randolph, Raynham, Rockland, Sharon, Sherborn, Stoughton, Walpole, West Bridgewater, Westwood, Whitman

“We’re having the busiest year on record and we’ve been doing fuel assistance over 30 years.”

“Our client base is exploding.”

20,000 households have applied so far. Believe around 14,000 approved so far. “We have a bit of a backlog.” They’ve been working overtime on Saturdays to try to catch up on certifying applications. They’ve never done that before.

Don’t have info on hand about how many certified last year; think it’s higher this year.

Brockton and Attleboro are their core service area, especially Brockton. They have people on program year to year – many elderly. “This year we’ve had 4,000 new households come to us.” People who said they’ve never used any government services. “They were, a year ago or two years ago, making donations to organizations like Self Help. Now they’re receiving services.”

“It’s a different world from even three years ago with the foreclosures, and people have eviction notices. It’s all pointing in a direction that’s not good.”

On oil prices: “It’s disturbing.” When LIHEAP gave $700 to $800 as a max benefit 20 years ago, oil was under a dollar a gallon. This year, they got a bit more money allocated, but initially, it started off where clients – the poorest of the poor – would get about one tank of oil.

“The president, he suggested cutting this program in half. You’d have benefits that would last three weeks or a month in the dead of the winter. It’s somewhat disturbing he said that.”

Sen. Scott Brown came out and said this is a life-saving program and while he recognizes that we have to cut expenses and try to reconcile the massive annual deficit, it doesn’t make sense to do it on the backs of the neediest, the poor of the poor.

With utility shutoff moratorium coming on April 4, they have a lot of folks come then who are so far in arrears that they’ll lose their heat or electric. “The compounding problem there is once a utility shuts that off, they’re under no obligation to turn it back on unless arrangements have been worked out.”

PACE will negotiate to get it turned back on or to connect with assistance to pay down the debt.

“It’s almost like people have spent their coming year’s allocation on stuff that’s old. It’s a different heating season, but that’s what we do; we work with the utilities and do our best to support the clients in that regard.”

Rising need: “It’s consistent with what other food pantries, folks that take food stamp applications, unemployment – it’s all connected. It’s pointing in a trend that’s upsetting.”

Also concerned about cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds community action agencies like his. “We’re the premier anti-poverty delivery agencies. We leverage a lot of funds.”

“If there was ever a time that we need to be in business, it seems like now is the time.”

Would stress they still have people coming through the door. “We’re really taking some big steps with the social networking.” Some people are just hearing about them. Fuel assistance is open through April 30.

David Harrison

South Middlesex Opportunity Council, division director for energy and conservation services; serves Acton, Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Boxboro, Concord, Dover, Framingham, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Lincoln, Linwood, Littleton, Marlborough, Maynard, Medfield, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millis, Millville, North Grafton, North Uxbridge, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, South Grafton, Sherborn, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Stow, Sudbury, Upton, Uxbridge, Wayland, Wellesley, Westborough, Weston, Whitinsville

Got a slight increase in funding from where they were 2 months ago. They have about $4.675 million now. “I expect we’ll spend it all out.” Last year they spent it out, and the year before, they ran out. This year, their client volume is higher than the last.

This year’s benefit levels are down $200 or $300 from last year. The max. benefit if you’re the poorest of poor with oil is $1,090. Last year it was $1,250. “It goes up and down.” In ’09, it was $1,500.

Re: price of oil: “It’s as high as it’s been as far as I can remember.” It’s been difficult; the benefit offers so little money to start. People ran out of benefits before XMas.

SMOC gets a break of about 30 cents per gallon on the price of oil because they buy at the rack. They pay a “margin over rack” price of about $3.65 a gallon, compared to $3.90 average. But for 200 gallons in a tank, one delivery and most folks are out of money. “It’s been an astronomical year for folks.”

Re: what’s driving people to apply for benefits: It’s the economy. Last year, he had over 7,000 clients. They’re close to that now. Right now they’re at 7,179 applications and have another 30 days to accept them. Of those, 5,600 already determined eligible. About 750 applications still being reviewed.

“Brand new households applying for the first time were just under 1,800. 1,800 brand new families came onto fuel assistance this year, never applied before – that’s a sign of the economy.”

The staff he has is five people with a manager and a receptionist, but she just meets and greets and keeps the paper flowing. “If we get cut next year, I will be down to three. I don’t know how we’ll process it.” State would have to significantly change the program.

In ’76, the LIHEAP benefit level was $750.

Phillip Bronder-Giroux

Tri-City Community Action Program, executive director; serves 7 towns, including Malden, Medford, Melsore, Stoneham, Winchester, Woburn

They’ve taken about 5,900 applications so far. As of the end of February, they’ve determined 4,900 are eligible. Last year, by the end of the season, they had 6,587 applications; 5,800 were approved.

“In terms of first-time applicants – it’s a good indicator, I think, or marker of people who haven’t used the program before.” Many who have lost jobs or new to the area. So far, they have 980 new applicants.

“Last year, there were over 1,400. We were at the height of the recession. It continues, so that’s what we’re seeing.”

Certainly as the price of oil continues to go up, more people are coming to them. “I would encourage people who think that they still need the assistance and who think that the program is winding down that no, we’ll take applications.” Through end of April.

“It’s important to know that even if you have already bought the oil, you can still apply, and you’ll get a check for the amount of your benefit that you’ll receive.” They’ve taken applications since Nov. 1. People may have had a hard time reaching them when they were very busy early in the season and may feel discouraged. They should try again because it’s slowed a bit.

“They will get the same benefit level and amount had they applied on Nov. 1. It’s really worth it.”

Tri-City operates a couple of programs in tandem with the fuel assistance program, including weatherization – so far in the last year and a half, they’ve done about 295 homes to make them more energy efficient and cut heating bills.

He believes Citizens Energy has exhausted all their funds for the year.

Patricia Daly

South Shore Community Action Council, executive director; serves 39 towns, including Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Carver, Chatham, Cohasset, Dennis, Duxbury, Eastham, Falmouth, Halifax, Hanover, Harwich, Hingham, Hull, Kingston, Marshfield, Mashpee, Middleborough, Nantucket, Norwell, Orleans, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Provincetown, Sandwich, Scituate, Truro, Wareham, Wellfleet, Yarmouth

They will probably take 15,000 applications this season. They had approved 14,700 last she checked, but that changes daily. Usually 80-85 percent are income eligible.

On the price of oil: “It’s volatile.” People at one time would save up and buy it in the summer. Now they don’t know when to buy now because the price is so volatile.

Follow-up e-mail from South Shore CAC with more details:

-----Original Message-----

From: Lisa A. Spencer []

Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 9:57 AM

To: Riley, David

Cc: Patricia A. Daly

Subject: SSCAC Fuel Assistance Information

Good morning David,

* Through 3/15/2011, SSCAC has taken 14,209 applications. The program ends for application intake on 4/30/2011. We have been running 4% above last years numbers (14,732 final taken)on a monthly basis which would put us at a projection of over 15,000 applications taken by the end of April this year.

* SSCAC's budget for Fuel Assistance is $10,862,560. Vendor payments are $9,683,145 of this amount.

* SSCAC's 39 towns served and funds expended for last season are attached.

(I asked if they’d spend all of this year’s funding) * With 36 different benefit levels depending on income; heat source; and whether a household lives in subsidized housing; or whether a household has high energy consumption, it is difficult to determine. A copy of the income guidelines and benefit levels is also attached. Even though the last day for intake is 4/30 clients have 30 days to complete applications and payments do not end until the end of June for bills incurred during the heating season. At this writing 10,179 households are eligible and vendor payments to 157 South Shore and Cape and Islands vendors total $ 6,155,741. The end of the utility moratorium April 4, 2011 will generate a flurry of applications. A list of intake sites that take fuel assistance applications for SSCAC is also attached.

Please advise should you need any additional information.

Lisa Spencer

Director of Energy and Emergency Programs SSCAC, Inc.

265 South Meadow Road

Plymouth, MA 02360

Phone 508.747.7575 x 218 Fax 508.746.5140

Anne Gross-Shannon

Quincy Community Action Programs, director of energy programs; serves Quincy, Braintree, Milton and Weymouth

They have 5,070 applications now. They are sill taking them through April 30 and anticipate the total will go higher. Last year, they had 4,475 applications.

“We basically right now are running at about a 4 percent increase over last year, but since the program year of 2008, we have had a 44 percent increase.”

“Right now it’s steady, but it’s not crazy.” It was crazy earlier in the winter. It’s slowed down a bit, but that’s to be expected. But it will pick up, especially as the winter moratorium ends for utilities. Folks are looking for help clearing up those balances.

Cost of fuel, economy are driving clients to seek benefits. They include people who used to be able to support their parents, who are on fixed incomes. Now the adult children are in situations where they’ve lost jobs and no longer can support the older parents.

Overall, a lot of new people are in the program. “I think that folks in the past who could get by aren’t, especially with the high cost of fuel right now.”

Their client base is about 20 percent new applicants, which is up from previous years. Usually it’s 10-15 percent. “We’re keeping our existing base and then we’re adding to it each and every year.” Hence the 44 percent jump.

The maximum benefit would cover a little bit more than a tank. Right now the price of oil is at a height.

“Any cut to these programs would be truly devastating to low-income people. With the price of fuel plus the … economy, any cut is going to hit the lowest income people in the community.”

John Keeney

New England Farm Workers Council, area project coordinator for fuel assistance in the Fitchburg office; serves 27 towns, including Bolton, Clinton, Harvard, Lancaster

They took about 11,400 applications so far this year. They’re about 50 or so short of last year. “We’ll definitely have more than 50 in the next six weeks.” Could very well hit 50 more in a day or two.

They are still busy. Will start to do some advertising next week because the utility shutoff moratorium ends April 4. By law, it’s usually March 15, but now delayed through April 4. Clients they have to get a letter first before utility can shut off, at least 72 hours in advance.

Usually, the letter says if you do not pay by X date, you may receive a termination. At that point, depending on payment history, they first go after people who are have made little or no effort to pay. NEFWC will be letting people know the program is open through April 30.

“Considering we’re close to hitting last year’s benchmarks six weeks ahead of time, we have definitely seen an increase in new applicants.”

Has been a cold winter, and looking at gas pumps if nothing else, oil prices are so far up.

The past two years, LIHEAP got $5.1b nationally. For this federal budget year, continuing resolutions have been going on forever now. The federal budget, in the best of all worlds, is supposed to have been settled by Oct. 1. “Right now, fuel assistance is typically funded about 78 percent of what it has been the last two years.”

They got some assistance from United Way: “We’ve gone through $40,000 that was given to us by the United Way. And most of that has gone to deliver fuel to customers that ran out of fuel assistance.” Some have no fuel in their tank at all. Good thing is spring is on its way.

Some people think they won’t get anything out of fuel assistance if they apply late in the season. That’s not so and it doesn’t matter if their bills are paid or unpaid when the benefit comes in.

John Condon

Community Action Inc., heating assistance program director; serves 11 towns, including Amesbury, Boxford, Georgetown, Newburyport

At 6,009 applications so far this year. Last year were about the same, 5,952. “Last year there was a spike from the year before of almost 1,000.”

Price of oil is up 38 percent from last year. “They can’t meet hardly any of their bills. We get hundreds of people in some form of foreclosure. Our number of self-employed people go up every year.”

They also get elderly people – they either pay taxes or pay for heat, but can’t pay for both.

A lot of the elderly homeowners they serve are still heating with oil. A lot of rental properties have been converted to gas. In the latter case, at least you’re protected from shutoff in winter and price hasn’t gone up as rapidly. Only 20 percent of their applicants heat with oil.

The last three or four weeks have been pretty slow. As soon as the utility shutoff moratorium is over and clients start getting shutoff notices, stragglers come in. From the last week of March through end of April, they’ll be busy again.

If LIHEAP is cut: “I don’t know how we’re going to operate the program, honestly.” Staffing will be difficult.

“To administer the program, the cost is based on the number of applicants, period. The more applicants you get, the more staff you need and the more time the staff has to be on.” Next summer, they’re required to send out applications to all the people who applied and were eligible this year. “Even if they change the income guidelines, we’re still going to get the same number of applications coming in.”

To absorb the cut, LIHEAP may have to go from accepting people at 60 percent of median income to 150 percent of poverty. That would reduce the number of eligible people by almost 50 percent. Those who’ve gotten funding in the past would likely appeal if rejected next winter.

His program goes out to bid every three years for the oil. No other programs have ever picked up on that practice, but it’s cheaper – $3.32 a gallon. The average price last he checked is about $3.75. (Has a lot more to say on this subject, but wasn’t really relevant for broader story.)

Claudia Cruz

City of Cambridge, program manager for fuel assistance in the Human Services office; also serves Somerville

They have received 1,812 eligible applicants. They still have about 280 more that are incomplete or are still being reviewed. They had about 2,340 last year, so they’re already very close to meeting last year.

“It was slowing down … with people getting shut off, it’s starting to pick up again. We’re getting a lot of phone calls from people wanting to come in before they’re shut off.”

Loss of income is the main motivator for applicants, or people running out of unemployment benefits. Most people they can’t afford the oil either, but it’s mainly other economic reasons that drive them to apply.

Re: proposed LIHEAP cuts: “Hopefully it will not get approved. To be honest, I don’t even want to think about that just now. We’re just hoping with everyone talking about it and writing letters to our senators and everyone else, they can avoid that.”

Charles Lopiano

Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, assistant director; serves Lawrence, Methuen, Andover, North Andover

Number of applications: 10,799. Last year, a little less than 10,000. Number of first-time applicants this year: 2,047.

Re: potential cuts to LIHEAP: “There’s a lot of sentiment – we use the term pushback – from constituents and local officials that it ought to be fully funded this year and next year at least.”

GLCAC is concerned about cuts in the current year. “We don’t even think about FY12 yet because the country obv can’t get through FY11.”

This is really a bipartisan issue, and doubt we will really see cuts this year or the next.

“Then the problem becomes the greater the demand by the number of people, and the greater the oil prices, the less the constituents will get.”

May have at least a 10 percent growth in numbers of first time clients.

Liz Berube

Citizens for Citizens in Fall River, director of fuel assistance; serves 11 towns, including Fall River, Taunton, Berkley, Dighton, Lakeville, Somerset, Swansea, Westport

They have received 18,522 applications so far this year. Last year they finished the deadline at April 30 with 19,782. So far, they’re short around 1,200 or so, but there are five or six weeks left to apply. Think they’ll be about the same as last year’s total. Don’t know that they’ll actually have more.

The AJ Wright chain of stores just closed, and Citizens for Citizens worked with Dept. of Employment and Training at a resource fair to let employees losing their jobs know about fuel assistance and other means of support. They hope they’ll come in.

This time of year, they get people who are procrastinating, particularly around the April 4 end of the utility shutoff moratorium. Also people who are still paying this past winter’s bills.

So many elderly people don’t apply and say they’ll let someone who needs it more than them get it. They really should apply.

Re: proposed LIHEAP cuts: “We are very worried. This is a life or death program. People would just die without our program. If it gets cut in half nationwide … it would be awful. I don’t know what we would do.”

Don’t know what the benefits would be if the program is cut, but it certainly would not be enough to cover winter bills. Oil prices are just crazy this year. People who heat with gas are lucky this year.

“If the benefits are cut in half, we’re talking about $400 maybe for the entire winter? That’s like 100 gallons of oil. That’s like a three weeks’ supply.”