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Millions alloted to heat homes of poor families

Because this winter was especially severe, public officials have allocated $20 million to assist low-income families who cannot afford their heating bills.

The supplemental spending bill was signed into law on Monday. This money is essential for the 200,000 Massachusetts households that rely on the government to heat their homes each year.

“Heating assistance is vital to ensure that many Massachusetts residents don’t have to choose between eating and fueling their homes, especially during this particularly cold winter,” said Massachusetts Sen. Stephen Brewer.

The senator said government aid is crucial to those families who cannot afford to pay expensive heating bills each month.

“I recently received a heating bill for $803, and was shocked at how high the number was,” he said. “For those who cannot pay a similar amount for heating, this aid is a lifeline.”

Rick Ellis, director of communication at Action for Boston Community Development, said this winter has been particularly harsh, long and unrelenting.

“Anytime you save people’s lives it is a worthwhile investment,” Ellis said. “A lot of the people we serve are either elderly or single moms with children. You are dealing with health. It is not a matter of comfort.”

The additional 20 million doll will provide approximately 100 dollars in additional aid to each family that is eligible.

Ellis said ABCD has been lobbying for heating aid for most of the winter and they will not stop until social issues like the heating crisis are resolved.

“We have a congress that believes that less is more right now,” he said. “All social programs across the country have been under attack.  These are issues that we fight every day and every year and we will continue to fight them until they are solved.”

Deborah Drew, National Grid spokeswoman, said that National Grid is concerned about how the rising cost of heating prices has been affecting their customers. Drew said the company is doing their best to keep their customers informed about the options available to them through National Grid.

“We have been very concerned about how rising energy prices during this very cold winter have affected our customers and we know that energy prices are a key component for the household budget,” she said. “[We give them] ways to manage their energy use and cause.”

Drew said the $20 million would be helpful to their customers and practical from a utility standpoint.

“In terms of the assistance for families this certainly will help our customers get trough the winter billing periods,” she said. “I think from a utility perspective any additional assistance that customers can have will help.”

Several residents said they support of the supplemental funding bill and see more benefits than disadvantages to allocating this money.

“It definitely will help people,” said Andrew Bussiere, 27, of East Boston. “Heating aid is a thing that people need especially when they are in a low-income situation. The more you can do to help people who are impoverished the better, especially those with children. It’s definitely money well spent.”

Juanita Duran, 29, of Brighton said she believes this money will be helpful and is a valuable investment.

“People do not deserve to freeze because they cannot afford heating their homes,” she said.

Ryan Jepson, 23, of Kenmore, said he doesn’t believe the government should spend more money, but he sees the heating problem as a worthwhile cause.

“I do tend to lean toward fiscal restraint,” he said. “But it has been cold, and if this can help low income families deal with this weather, then it is worth it.”

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