For Immediate Release - January 04, 2012

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES INCREASE IN HEATING ASSISTANCE BENEFIT FOR MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS

Massachusetts receives additional $21.8 million in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds, raising the maximum benefit level

BOSTON – Wednesday, January 4, 2012 -- The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced an additional $21.8 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), increasing the maximum benefit to help low-income residents in Massachusetts heat their homes this winter. The additional funding, bringing the total Massachusetts allocation to $99.5 million, follows continued advocacy by the Administration for maximum funding for the program this year.

"As winter’s cold weather arrives, this additional funding is crucial to help many of our neighbors heat their homes," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I thank our Congressional delegation and the Obama Administration for their continued support."

“LIHEAP assistance has supported many households in years past, especially the elderly, disabled and veterans; and this continued funding will help keep more residents warm this winter,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “We thank our Congressional delegation for their continued support of this very critical resource for Massachusetts families."

The Commonwealth is expected to receive an additional funding increase in the coming weeks that will bring the total Massachusetts allocation to $132.7 million. Given this expected increase, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has increased benefit levels; the maximum benefit level for the most vulnerable has increased from $675 for heating oil or other deliverable fuels to $1,025; and from $275 for utilities to $525.

The Patrick-Murray Administration has been actively engaged in urging Congress to provide the maximum funding possible for LIHEAP. In November, Governor Patrick organized a bipartisan coalition of more than a dozen governors to send a letter urging Congressional leaders to bring LIHEAP funding for FY2012 up to the same levels it was funded in FY2011. Lieutenant Governor Murray participated in a LIHEAP Coalition call with several northeast governors and lieutenant governors designed to call attention to the need for additional program funding in December.

“The bottom line is crystal clear. It's not hyperbole to say that without this lifeline, seniors, the disabled and working poor families would be choosing between food, medicine and heating their homes during a brutal New England winter,” said U.S. Senator John Kerry. “We’ve been working a long time to get our state’s fair share and this down payment comes just in time.”

"Heating assistance is crucial to low income families and seniors as they deal with rising energy costs and the rough weather that comes with every New England winter," said U.S. Senator Scott Brown. "I'm proud that the Massachusetts delegation and other allies in Congress banded together throughout 2011 to fight for LIHEAP funding, and I'll continue to support this critical program."

The fuel assistance funds provide eligible households with help in paying a portion of their winter heating bills. Eligibility for the program is based on household size and the gross annual income of every household member, 18 years or older. The maximum income eligibility for LIHEAP is 60 percent of estimated state median income.

“Temperatures have dropped but home heating oil prices are on the rise this winter and this release of LIHEAP funding comes at just the right time for Massachusetts,” said Congressman Edward Markey. “These additional funds will allow the state to continue helping households who are struggling during the harsh winter season and in this tough economy. I thank Governor Patrick for his leadership obtaining these funds, which will help ensure that Massachusetts families don't have to choose between eating and heating in the cold days ahead.”

“I commend the Patrick-Murray Administration for stepping up to the plate on heating assistance funds as the U.S. House leadership is moving in the wrong direction on them," said Congressman John Olver. "These funds are critical for low-income families in Massachusetts and this assistances should not be treated as expendable.”

“LIHEAP is an absolutely essential program,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “As the weather turns colder, it’s critically important that these funds are made available.”

“These funds are critical for those who rely on the LIHEAP program to help their homes each winter,” said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. “I am pleased to see that this funding will be available for those who need assistance and I will continue to fight to restore the funding cut from the LIHEAP program.”

Funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, LIHEAP is managed by DHCD in conjunction with 22 regional nonprofit and local government organizations.

Total funding levels are expected to represent an approximate 28% cut in funding from last year’s allocation. Last year, DHCD served more than 210,000 Massachusetts households through the program and expects the need to be even greater this winter. 

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