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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Home heating aid program in MA keeps families safe, warm

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Monday, October 30, 2023   

Winter is coming, and the annual statewide campaign to inform Massachusetts residents about available heating assistance is underway.

Advocates for the program said the eligibility requirements are broad to ensure no family has to make the decision between keeping their house warm or covering other basic needs.

Jeanne Costa, a resident of New Bedford, said heating assistance allowed her elderly mother to remain in her home as she aged.

"They should know that there isn't any shame attached to attaining a helping hand up," Costa urged. "Which shouldn't be confused with a helping hand out."

Renters and homeowners making less than 60% of the state median income to address home energy costs are eligible, which includes a family of four making just over $87,000. Applications are currently being accepted online.

While some energy prices are dropping, public safety officials worry families unable to afford their heating bill will use more dangerous methods to stay warm.

Jon Davine, state fire marshal, said the heating aid program helps families avoid those decisions, and keep both them and his firefighters safe.

"It doesn't just help folks save money, it actually helps save lives," Davine contended.

Davine noted home heating equipment is the main source of carbon monoxide and the second leading cause of residential fires in Massachusetts.

Once households apply for heating assistance, they will automatically be enrolled in other energy-efficiency cost-saving programs.

Joe Diamond, executive director of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, a coalition of more than twenty community action agencies throughout the Commonwealth, credits lawmakers for ensuring heating and energy help is available for the most vulnerable families.

"It's a powerful program," Diamond outlined. "It's an economic support program. It's a health and safety program. It's a housing preservation program."

Diamond pointed out studies show expanding heating assistance to more households with young children benefits children's health and growth.

Disclosure: The Massachusetts Association for Community Action contributes to our fund for reporting on Housing/Homelessness, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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