.

Pat Andriole at the Branford Counseling Center Worries about Fuel and the "Fiscal Cliff"

"If there are cuts, I don't know how people will survive," Andriole said.

With progress on talks to avoid more than $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts stalled,  Pat Andriole, director of the Branford Counseling Center, expressed her concern that fuel assistance would suffer along with
other basic needs if an agreement to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” were
not reached.

“If there are cuts, I don’t know how people will survive,” she said. “The needs are immense.  “The needs are three times what we saw last year at this time.”

Andriole termed the Center the last resort for citizens of Branford because that is where citizens who do not meet the requirements for fuel assistance at the Senior Center arrive.

“I look at the whole town.  We look at the entire picture over here.”

Andriole said that, to date, the Center has spent as much on fuel assistance since the start of the fiscal year on July 1 as it spent the entire previous fiscal year. The Center receives $45,500 from the town.

“I’m concerned.  I’m very concerned. I’m concerned about people’s financial status,” she said.  She noted that the Center’s Secret Santa program will serve close to 400 people this year.  In order to get a “Secret Santa” wish families have to demonstrate proof of income and expenses.  Everyone who applies to the Secret Santa program, she said, fits into the federal and state poverty level. 

“It’s incredible,” she said.

Brian O’Connor, speaking for the Citizens Energy Corp. in Massachusetts, said, “What the analysts have said is that going over the fiscal cliff would cause a nine percent across the board cut in nondefense discretionary spending.”

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance program or LIHEAP, which is the federal program for fuel assistance administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, would fall in that category.  LIHEAP gives block grants to the states, which administer the monies differently.  

He noted that, “In this season we’ve seen heating oil prices start to approach $4 a gallon. At the same time, we’ve seen federal fuel assistance go down 30 percent in the last few years.”

In Branford, those federal monies go to the fuel assistance program run by the Senior Center.  That pushes persons who do not meet federal and
state guidelines—perhaps because they own a house or a car—to the Branford Counseling Center.

Andriole said that, other than monies that come from the town, she looks to the private sector to cover basic-needs costs.  She said the Branford Community Foundation has contributed $10,000 to the Center to cover basic needs and Branford Cares has given $20,000 to cover basic needs.

In addition to private donations, Andriole applies for grants from such nonprofit groups as the United Way and the Jewish Way.

“Some people were hardly affected by the great recession,” Citizens Energy’s O’Connor observed. Yet, he said, millions of people who remain unemployed or underemployed desperately need the assistance.

“I hear the economy’s getting better,” Andriole said.  “I think that is absolutely false.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something