By Bill Shields

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Sen. John Kerry is urging President Barack Obama to push for $5.1 billion in federal home heating aid to help Massachusetts families who rely on the federal help to survive long New England winters.

In a letter to Obama Thursday, the Massachusetts Democrat pointed to what he called “alarming projections about the cost of home heating oil in New England this coming winter.”

Some experts are predicting the prices will approach $3.71 per gallon. In the winter of 2003-2004, it was $1.45 per gallon.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports

Kerry said the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has been hit with budget cuts in recent years even as demand for help has grown.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, I need some help every year,” says Karen Powers of Woburn.

Last year, Powers got $900 from the Tri-City C.A.P. program, but if federal budget cuts go into effect, she may only get $400.

“I’m very nervous,” says Tri-City official Barry Ingber. “Because we’re already swamped with applications for assistance, and some people are coming in already in arrears and now, we won’t be able to fill up their tanks.”

Last year, Tri-C.A.P. could provide a maximum of about $1,000.oo for each household that qualified for assistance. This year, they’re looking at $400 max if federal funds are cut.

“$400 dollars for the season, that’s not even one full tank,” says Ingber.

One of the largest fuel-assistance programs in the state is Action for Boston Community Development. Last year, they helped 96,000 people, many of them needing fuel assistance. The coming winter could prove deadly, says John Drew of A.B.C.D, if oil heat prices hit $3.71, and the feds cut funding for assistance.

“This could be a disaster,” says Drew. “I’m scared to death for our clients. And the people in Washington are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jim Smith reports.

Kerry said there are more than 880,000 households in Massachusetts that use home heating oil during the winter.

He said rising prices could force the average Massachusetts family to pay nearly $200 more this winter than last to heat their homes, forcing many to seek federal assistance.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (5)
  1. Taiyesha Liles says:

    This is a very scary time for everyone, especially with oil heat. If we do not get anymore funding elderly people will die this year! This is a serious issue.

    1. Davena Hoskyns says:

      I agree with you, but it’s not just just the elderly. What about the single Mom’s and Dads or the Mom’s and Dads that are together and that work and have there kids in day care and still can’t afford to heat there home or have hot water for a shower. The price of Oil is Outrageous, something has to Give…

  2. Andrea Mendoza says:

    That is very true. We see this first hand everyday. With these tough times it’s hard to think that funding so vital to our communities is being threatened.

  3. Jennifer Jones says:

    I See this everyday hardworking low income people who struggle to have enough to cook and heat there homes, They need to understand what a crisis this is. What is it going to take. Tough times are here and these families cannot stretch there budget any further.

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