City program helps heat homes when oil gets low

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Cranston’s department of community development is paying for a one-time delivery of 100 gallons of heating oil to Cranston residents who meet certain income guidelines.

Stephanie Sussi, interim director of community development, said that 20 households have been given the free 100 gallons of oil so far, but the program will be available until the beginning of April.

Last year, an allocation of $16,000 paid for 31 families to receive the donation, she said, and the allocation this year is $17,000 in city funds.

In order to qualify for the free delivery, you must be a Cranston resident, have an oil tank that is less than 25 percent full and meet certain income requirements. Those requirements are based on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, which are annual incomes of $40,400 for a one-person household, $46,200 for a two-person household, $51,950 for three-person, $57,700 for four-person and $62,350 for a five-person household, according to the city website.

Eligibility is easier to achieve, Sussi said, because their income limits are much higher than the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP), and they have many clients they service who have low income but don’t qualify for CCAP’s help.

“They bring documentation into the office and the application process takes five minutes,” Sussi said. “It’s an emergency program, so turnaround time is very quick.”

As long as someone meets all of their standards, which they can prove through their last four pay stubs, Sussi said, the department can get to work contacting oil companies and getting the 100 gallons delivered to homes in need.

Sussi said that they make it a point to use the vendor that the resident already uses. Sometimes the company doesn’t agree to their guidelines for payment – which is to pay them within two weeks of the oil delivery – in which case they’ll get the oil from the lowest-priced oil company at the time, she said, which is usually Speedy Oil.

She also said that they can’t control when the oil companies will actually deliver after making the deal, so they are in constant contact with the client in letting them know when the oil will be delivered. The oil companies they use include Star Oil, Woods, and Micheletti’s, and Sussi said that all of them are “good about taking our terms.”

Oil does get expensive, which is the whole reason for the program in the first place, and is even “creeping up” currently, said Sussi, who is in charge of the entire program.

“When we opened the program on Nov. 16 the price of oil was $225 for 100 gallons,” she said. “The price on Dec. 23 was $309.”

She added that the price isn’t expensive as it has been in years past – the department has been running this program since at least 2011, Sussi said – when they’ve paid up to $400 for 100 gallons.

The program will only be running for the winter months and comes especially in handy as Rhode Island grapples with an especially cold beginning of the year.

“I don’t want any Cranston resident to suffer in the cold this winter,” Mayor Allan Fung wrote in an email. “That’s why I urge any qualifying family with oil heat to reach out and apply for a one-time oil delivery through this program, which is an important safety net that I’m proud to support in our city budget every year. I know that times are tough for many Cranston families and nobody should have to choose between filling an oil tank or buying groceries.”

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