Sunday, February 12, 2012

Heating expense burden addressed

Aid pursued for those in need

 By Sherry Hughes Sentinel Staff

PETERBOROUGH — A grassroots organization aimed at empowering people with disabilities, their families and communities met to discuss ways to address federal cutbacks to state funding of fuel assistance programs.
The members of ABLE-NH (Advocates Building Lasting Equality) hope to garner support and provide solutions to those struggling to pay for heating costs.
About 15 people attended the meeting of ABLE-NH’s Jaffrey-Rindge chapter, including three state representatives — Rep. Franklin W. Sterling, R-Jaffrey; Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Rindge; and Rep. John B. Hunt, R-Rindge — a representative from Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s office, and a representative from Southwestern Community Services in Keene.
This year’s federal funding for fuel assistance in the state was cut almost in half, from $34 million last year to $14.7 million for this winter.
One program ABLE-NH is championing is “give a gallon,” much like Public Service of New Hampshire’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor program. Give a gallon would allow fuel customers to donate a dollar amount or a certain number of gallons of heating oil to the needy via their monthly statement.
Pat Martin, a member of ABLE-NH, said she’s received word from officials with the state Oil Heat Council that they would be willing to assist in the administration of the program. The idea is in its infancy, but the group hopes to see it come to fruition later this year.
Beth Daniels, energy service director for Southwestern Community Services, said the need for assistance is dire. The people who come into her office are “two-parent households who are underemployed, elderly folks on a fixed income, single parent families and the disabled population,” she said.
The assistance given averages $700 per family per year; the average cost for heating a home for the winter in New Hampshire is $3,200.
> For information about ABLE-NH, go to

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