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Home heating aid up, but costs rise higher

Associated Press | 10/22/2008, 4:46 a.m.

Cuneo also called on Patrick to adopt two policies. First, he asked that the governor keep the additional $10 million aid allocation in the budget for fiscal year 2009. Next, he advocated for the creation of a fuel-assistance line item in the state budget, so that on July 1 each year, LIHEAP clients will know how much financial assistance will be available. The state’s investment in fuel assistance now comes in the form of supplemental budgets appropriated at different times of the year.

Getting the Patrick administration to implement those two suggestions will likely be difficult given revised budget estimates that show a deficit of over $1.4 billion.

Saying the “financial turmoil around the world has now hit home here in Massachusetts,” Patrick last Wednesday announced more than $1 billion in cuts and spending controls, the elimination of 1,000 state jobs and the extraction of an additional $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund to balance the loss in revenue collections.

“There are no easy choices here,” Patrick said. “… But the sacrifice must be shared. Many worthy ideas and good people will be affected.”

Last Wednesday’s rally also honored three longtime advocates for fuel assistance.

MASSCAP presented Community Action Champion Awards to state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, chair of the legislative committee that recommended the Commonwealth provide additional fuel assistance for needy families this winter; state Rep. Paul Donato, D-Malden, a longtime supporter of fuel-assistance programs; and Jack Hamilton, executive director of Community Action Agency of Somerville, whose agency has made fuel assistance the focal point of its work.

“If we don’t deliver, people die,” said Hamilton, who received a standing ovation as he accepted his award. “Fuel assistance is the basis [of our work] that keeps people alive.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.