RI families wait for heating assistance


Heating assistance for low-income families in Rhode Island was already a month behind schedule because of a computer glitch at the state level.

Now a month later, families are still waiting for the oil truck.

Carol Abbott spends hours on the phone calling state agencies and local nonprofits for help. But for close to two weeks, she and her mother have been without heat.

“I don’t think anybody cared. That’s how I feel. I tell them, my mom’s sick. We’re all disabled. I’ve been arguing with everybody on the phone about it,” Carol Abbott said Friday.

The Abbott family called NBC 10 for help.

“We called the governor already,” Mary Abbott said. “Ain’t nothing they can do.”

Mary Abbott is 74 and is on oxygen 24 hours a day. She worries using a space heater could lead to a fire.

“I’ve got two comforters on my bed, and I still was freezing,” Mary Abbott said.

The Abbotts’ application for heating assistance was submitted weeks ago, but there’s still no oil at their home in Coventry.

“It’s even worse now because we’re actually having some really cold weather,” said Debbie Clark of the George Wiley Center, a Pawtucket-based nonprofit that helps people who need heating assistance.

Clark said thousands of Rhode Islanders are in the same situation.

“They’re nervous. They’re panicking. Some of them are calling me, hysterical, crying on the phone, because they have children,” Clark said.

Protestors gathered at the State House on Dec. 7 after a state computer glitch slowed the application process by about a month.

The governor promised then that help was on the way.

“I think we’ve got the problems fixed and the checks are going out,” Chafee said.

Why are families still waiting for heating oil? The state says the problem lies with community action programs, or CAPs — the local nonprofit groups that distribute heating money.

“The process isn’t 100 percent if they’re calling Channel 10. They need to be calling the CAPs. That’s what we’re in business to do,” said Ron Renaud of the state Department of Administration.

If you need help to heat your home and your heating oil hasn’t arrived, you can call the state Office of Energy Resources at 401-574-9100.

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