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Thursday, February 06 2014

HRC To Hold Public Hearing On Fuel Assistance Crisis

Adapted from a Greenfield Human Rights Commission (HRC) press release:

On Monday, February 10, 2014, at 6PM, in the Greenfield Town Hall meeting room, the Greenfield Human Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on the fuel assistance funding crisis and invites the participation of those residents whose fuel assistance award may be exhausted, or nearly exhausted, as well as all other county residents.  The Commission's guest speaker will be Peter Wingate, director of energy for Community Action.

"People who depend on fuel assistance to heat their homes and to keep their families warm are literally hanging by a thread now. There is not enough funding for another tank of oil or to pay another gas bill. We would like them to know that they are not alone and that we will use our good offices to advocate for further fuel assistance funding", said Lewis Metaxas, chairman of the Human Rights Commission.

The Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program ( LIHEAP ) is down $15 million dollars from last year due to federal budget cuts and the federal sequestration.  As our congressional representatives have written to the President, "The average LIHEAP grant is only estimated to cover less than half of the average home heating costs for a household this winter, meaning that many low-income families and seniors will have fewer resources available to meet other basic needs."

According to Congressman Jim McGovern's office, the average allowance for enrolled Americans in the program has decreased by more than $100 since 2010 and that LIHEAP funding has dropped over 30 percent in recent years. According to Community Action, funding for the program has declined 17 percent over the past four years.

In fact, Community Action's own LIHEAP funding is down $900,000 from last year, bringing the maximum per-household benefit level down to $950 from nearly $1,500 three years ago. There are approximately 6000-9000 applicants in Franklin and Hampshire counties affected by the present situation.

The Human Rights Commission will also explore the possibility of forming a community coalition of relevant stakeholders to advocate for the state to augment the fuel assistance program with state funding.

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