A group of Massachusetts based foundations and corporations have announced millions in donations to help low income people survive the winter. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The statewide funding collaborative, MassNeeds, on Tuesday announced that $8.4 million has been raised to help poor people with the basic needs of food, heat and shelter this winter. The money comes from 41 corporate, private and public foundations and will be shared by 150 charities .
Blake Jordan, executive director of The Highland Street Foundation said the number of funders in the collaborative has doubled since last year when $3 million dollars was raised. Since MassNeeds started in 2009 its has grown ten fold.
The funding collaborative was formed to not only close funding gaps in programs for the needy but also raise public awareness and highlight organizations that help Massachusetts residents. During a conference call with reporters Tuesday, the heads of several nonprofits said they expect high demand this winter, as the economy remains sluggish and unemployment is still high.
Kathy Tobin, the energy programs director at Action For Boston Community Development said at current prices it costs $800 for a home fuel oil deliver. The maximum fuel assistance benefit is $1,125 dollars, enough to cover about a month and a half , if the winter is not too cold. She said there are 200,000 people in the state currently eligible for help to pay home heating bills.
Demand is also going up for emergency food assistance, according to Catherine D’Amato, executive director of the Greater Boston Food Bank. She said 1 out of 11 Massachusetts residents, or 800,000 people is at risk of going hungry.
The representatives of the non profits warned the so-called “fiscal cliff” could mean cuts to social safety net programs at a time when demand for help remains high. Also, 45,000 Massachusetts residents are about to lose extended unemployment benefits.
Among the non-profit partners of MassNeeds in western Massachusetts are the Food Bank of western Massachusetts, Springfield Partners For Community Action, The Amherst Survival Center, and Elder Services of Berkshire County. A complete list is on the MassNeeds website.