Getting Answers: what’s being done to combat rising home heating oil costs

Western Mass News is getting answers on how this fund could help you this winter.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The cost of home heating oil has been on the rise throughout New England.

Now, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is calling for lawmakers to act on his proposal for a home heating oil reserve fund. It would help people in the Bay State combat high prices.

Western Mass News is getting answers on how this fund could help you this winter.

“Something needs to change,” said Scott Ahern. “Everything has been going up. It’s really been hurting all the people, all the New England states. It’s going to be a tough winter.”

“Oh, it’s going to be up and it’s going to cost, and it’s unfortunate that nobody is doing anything to get them lower,” added Anthony Scavotto.

People in western Massachusetts expressed their concerns about the increasing cost of home heating oil, especially with winter right around the corner.

“I’ve cut back quite a bit,” Scavotto told us. “You know, the unfortunate part is I’m considered a senior now, so I’m on a fixed income, so it’s kind of hurting a bit.”

What is being done for residents to stave off high heating bills this winter?

We took our questions to William Galvin, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He told Western Mass News that he is concerned about the high costs of heating oil.

“This is not a political issue,” Secretary Galvin said. “I think it’s a New England issue because of our unique reliance on home heating oil, and also, our impacts of weather as far as heating our homes, and so I think the issue is coming up with a plan that addresses every level.”

Secretary Galvin said that he is proposing a home heating oil reserve of up to $50 million to make sure that Massachusetts has the funding and oil supply to keep homes heated throughout the upcoming winter months. He added that the costs keep going up.

“57% of an increase from last year, and now, looking at a significantly higher increase this year, that’s a lot for any home to absorb, especially when they are absorbing price increases at every other aspect of life,” he said.

He told us that he is urging lawmakers to act now, as he believes these costs will impact low and middle income households.

“For home heating oil, it requires investment by the wholesalers, and we have to make sure that occurs, and if that’s not going to occur, the state must take action,” Secretary Galvin said. “But we need to be talking about it now, thinking about it now, planning for it now, and acting on it now.”

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association estimated that families will spend an average $2,115 on oil this winter, an increase of 12.8% from 2021-22.

The average cost for a gallon of heating oil is currently $4.73, almost $2 more than this time last year.

Western Mass News checked in with the Valley Opportunity Council, the fuel assistance provider for Hampden County, to find out how people locally can get assistance with high heating oil costs.

“Anyone, really, is eligible under certain income levels,” said Executive Director Stephen Huntley of the Valley Opportunity Council. “The income is based on household size, so someone in a household of 4 that makes somewhere in the $70,000 range would be eligible for a pretty limited benefit.”

The need for such assistance is certainly growing.

“We’re about double the applications that we’ve taken in compared to where we were a year ago at this time,” Huntley said. “We have taken in and approved over 2,000 applications.”

He added that people who live in Hampden County can check to see if they are eligible for the program on their website, where they can then set up an appointment.

However, if you are in need of fuel assistance and live in Franklin, Hampshire, or Berkshire Counties, you can find a list of fuel assistance programs in your area right the mass.gov website.

Huntley shared this message for those in need of assistance:

“We are really just trying to get folks to come out now, because once the cold snap hits, we’re afraid of what we’re going to see and long lines and things like that, and that’s not what we want to be doing.”