As the price of everything from rent to eggs goes up, community organizations say more people need help heating their homes this winter.
According to state numbers, first time applicants for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a federal program that provides financial aid for fuel, increased by 76% in Massachusetts compared to this time last year.
Sharon Scott-Chandler, president and CEO of Action for Boston Community Development, one of several local organizations that distributes fuel assistance, said she's glad more people are realizing there's help out there. Overall, ABCD has seen an 8% increase in the number of applications, both new and recurring, compared to early 2022.
"We hope to get new people," she said. "We keep outreaching. We keep doing this kind of thing to say 'please call us. Please find out if you're eligible.' "
Applicants who qualify for financial assistance can get up to $2,200 to offset their fuel costs. The cap for a single person is an income of $42,411 while the cap for a family of four is $81,561.
This year, state lawmakers added an extra $57 million to the heating assistance program, in addition to $159 million from the federal government. It's more funding than in a typical winter, but Scott-Chandler said there's always a lingering fear the money won't be enough to get residents through the cold months.
"People are saying the utilities are going up, their rents going up, but their salaries aren't going up," she said.
In Massachusetts, it's illegal for utility companies to shut off gas or electricity between Nov. 15 and March 15 for customers experiencing financial hardship.