Low-income Massachusetts residents will receive nearly $37 million in increased heating assistance through the short-term spending bill that passed in Congress this week, officials said Friday, as New Englanders brace for a steep hike in heating costs this winter caused by the war in Ukraine.
The funding, part of a $1 billion increase to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, comes as Massachusetts residents are “scrambling” to figure out how they’re going to pay their heating and utility bills this winter, US Representative Lori Trahan’s office said in a statement.
“Many families simply can’t afford a $40 or $50 increase each month, let alone over a hundred bucks,” Trahan said in the statement. “Growing up, my family certainly wouldn’t have been able to.
“I support this huge increase in home heating assistance funding because no family should be forced to choose between keeping their family warm or putting food on the table,” Trahan said. “Now, we have to work to get this funding flowing to the families who will be hit hardest by these price increases as soon as possible.”
The US House of Representatives voted 230-201 in favor of the short-term spending bill on Friday, one day after the measure passed the Senate by a 72-25 vote. The bill will finance the federal government up to Dec. 16, averting a possible shutdown that that would have begun at midnight Friday as a new fiscal year begins.
No Democrats voted against the bill, but it faced Republican opposition in both chambers. It now goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
Heating costs are expected to jump dramatically due to the war in Ukraine, the Globe reported. National Grid recently filed new natural gas rates that show a typical residential customer should expect a 22 to 24 percent increase compared to last winter.
Eversource, the state’s other dominant utility, said its increases for a typical residential customer would be 25 percent for those in the former Columbia Gas territory and 34 percent for those in its former NStar Gas territory.
There were 134,180 low-income households in Massachusetts that received assistance through the program last year, which was significantly less than the 813,161 households were eligible, the statement from Trahan’s office said.
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.