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Winter Fuel Funds For Needy Low

winter oil delvSPRINGFIELD (WGGB) — Every year, thousands of people here in Western Mass apply for and receive assistance paying for fuel to heat their homes.

But recently, one local aid organization is having trouble keeping up with the demand.

For Vito Aversa, the fuel aid program at the New England Farm Workers Council in Springfield helps to keep him warm. “I pay my rent every month and my heat is included,” Aversa explained. “However, the rent is very high. And every month I end up spending 60% of my income just on rent.”

That’s where the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program comes in – helping those in need defray and in some cases entirely pay for their home heating… though not so much in recent years.

With the price of heating fuels, like oil so high and the amount of aid money capped, many people are now out in the cold.

“It’s hard to keep people warm after their first delivery because the price of oil. We’re paying it $3.83 a gallon,” said program director at the New England Farm Workers Council, Mary Ann Kobylanski. “So it’s only giving our clients approximately one tank of oil.”

The highest amount of aid runs a little more than a $1,000, just paying for that one tank of oil. But on average it takes 3 tanks to get through winter.

And this year, it’s not only that but the poor economy causing a lot of people to request a lot of help.

The Farm Workers Council is Springfield helps about 12,000 people a year. Already more than 20% or 2,500 people have exhausted their fuel benefits.

“It’s tough seeing people who have always worked now looking for help and not being able to help them as much as we should,” said  Kobylanski.

People like Aversa, who’s used the fuel aid for four years. But as with many now looking for help, he’s worried about keeping warm and simply keeping a roof over his head.

“We’re going to have to start cutting back on other things but we can only go so far. And I’m afraid we might get to a tipping point where me being there might even be in danger.”

For those who’ve exhausted their fuel aid, the Farm Workers Council is now advising clients to try the Council of Churches of Western Mass and Citizens Energy.

Both also have fuel assistance programs for those in need.

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WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.
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