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As winter approaches, fuel assistance available for families in need in Massachusetts

A thermostat set at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Elizabeth Román
A thermostat set at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Massachusetts officials are encouraging low-income residents to start applying for fuel assistance before the winter gets underway.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, run by the state’s housing department, officially launched for the season Nov. 1. It covers a portion of heating costs for families that qualify.

Clare Higgins is executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, which distributes aid in western Massachusetts. She said demand was high last year.

"I would expect that we're going to see at least the same amount, if not more, because some of the pandemic relief that people have been getting, for instance, the increased tax credit for children, etcetera, are not as available anymore," she said.

Higgins said even though the state program does not cover the entire heating bill anyone who uses the gas or electric utilities will be protected from having their heat cut-off for non-payment. Those who use private sources of heat, like oil or wood, can still get assistance but would not qualify for the protection.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.