WORCESTER, Mass. — Earlier this week Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II joined with Distrigas CEO Clay Harris in Worcester to announce the continuation of a natural gas assistance program to help low-income Massachusetts residents pay their utility bills.
At the home of Worcester resident and single mother Karen Toukonen, Worcester Mayor Konnie Lukes welcomed the crowd and said the program has benefited hundreds of her constituents. “On behalf of the great City of Worcester, I want to express my thanks to Distrigas and Citizens Energy for creating this unique program,” she said. “This program provides much-needed relief for many of the hard-working individuals and families across the city.”
Kennedy informed Bay Staters that the Citizens Energy/Distrigas Heating Assistance program (CEDHAP), which provides eligible recipients with a $150 credit towards their natural gas bills, would be available again this year.
“We’re proud to work with Clay Harris and all the good folks at Distrigas and the Worcester Community Action Council who show a real concern for people struggling to pay their heating bills,” said Kennedy, pointing out that in spite of a mild start to the winter, bitterly cold temperatures in February and early March have put a strain on the budgets of the poor.
Thousands of households are struggling to pay their utility bills and helping them is not an option but an obligation,” he said.
Citizens Energy is administering the program, and Distrigas has committed $1 million in funding from the proceeds of the LNG cargoes delivered to the company’s LNG import facility in Everett, Massachusetts.
“No matter when cold weather hits Massachusetts, early on or late in the winter like this year, we feel we have a direct responsibility to help residents stay warm,” said Harris. “Natural gas is a key energy source for the state, and the CEDHAP program is one way that we can help make this fuel more affordable to those in need.”
In its third year of operation, CEDHAP has helped thousands of needy Massachusetts residents. To date, the program has made payments on behalf of customers of Bay State Gas, Berkshire Gas, Holyoke Gas & Electric, KeySpan, Middleboro Gas & Electric, NStar, Unitil and Westfield Gas & Electric. The program is aiming to assist some 6,000 additional households this year.
Kennedy also thanked the local community action agencies across the state for their role in helping to inform low-income residents about how to apply for this program.
Executive Director of the Worcester Community Action Council Jill Dagilis further underlined the need for not only this program, but for all assistance programs saying that the proof is in the numbers. “Since this program’s inception, we have assisted some 300 households in Worcester. Each year we assist almost 11,000 households with fuel assistance. And this year we are on pace to exceed that number.”
Households who don’t qualify for federal fuel aid but earn less than 60% of median income or who have exhausted their federal benefit can apply for a $150 credit to their natural gas bills through the CEDHAP program.
Toukonen, who suffers from a disability, received the benefit in 2006. She said it enabled her to pay for both her medicine and heat to keep her children warm. “Without this help when that cold winter snap set in, I do not know what I would have done. I am so grateful to everyone who helps make this program a reality,” she commented.
Households who believe they may qualify for assistance through CEDHAP are encouraged to call 1-866-GAS-9918.
Callers to this hotline will undergo a simple two-step process:
1. Leave their name and address on the hotline, and an application form will be mailed to the household within 24 hours.
2. Fill out the form and return it to Citizens Energy along with a copy of their gas bill. The program will then credit the household’s gas account.