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Funds Low for Fuel Assistance Programs

House-HeatingHOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) –It’s only January, and the many people who depend on the Valley Opportunity Council to help pay for oil to heat their homes, might be left freezing in them. “The real problem is that most of the people that have delivered fuel, oil, propane, kerosene, have used up their benefits. 80% of the people we have with delivered fuel cannot get another delivery,” said Gail Piscane, Energy Programs Director at the Valley Opportunity Council.

When we spoke to Piscane in December, she urged folks who had received their oil deliveries to take it easy, because she knew allotments were tight.

There’s no indication that extra money will be coming in from the federal government. “We are hoping that the state government might give us some money, but we don’t know that that’s going to happen either. And we have heard nothing about the citizen’s energy program, the Joe Kennedy program where normally, the people who would be on fuel assistance would have used up their benefits, but then they could get another 100 gallons. That’s not there,” she added.

100 gallons only lasts about 3 weeks. There’s 2 more months left of winter.

Of course, this bitter cold snap is not only hurting those who rely on the Valley Opportunity Council, but those who work there as well. “To make it worse for us, at the administrative level, we were cut in administrative funds, so we’re behind in our certification of people who heat with electric and gas. They’ll get certified, and they’re concerned. They’re calling in, ‘Where’s my benefits?’ But we’re doing the best we can because we have a reduced staff,” Piscane stated.

Piscane understands that it’s tough, but urges folks to be patient just a little while longer.

Massachusetts has a Winter Moratorium that lasts from November 15th through March 15, prohibiting gas & electric companies from shutting off heat for inability to pay.

There’s also a fraction of what was available in the council’s donation account. That means if you received some of those funds last year, you won’t be able to this year.

If you’d like to donate, you can send cash, or make a check out to the

Valley Opportunity Council Fuel Donation Account

300 High St. 2nd Floor

Holyoke, MA 01040.

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