Rally scheduled today for low-income fuel fund County effort supplements federal, state programs that face cutbacks

December 12, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Hoping to keep Howard County's low-income residents warm this winter, local social service officials will hold a fund-raising rally today for the county's Fuel Fund -- a supplement to the federally funded Maryland Energy Assistance Program, which has been hit hard by government cutbacks.

"I know we need more money," said Dorothy L. Moore, director of the Community Action Council of Howard County, which manages the county Fuel Fund. "We're very concerned here at Community Action, especially with the cold weather coming."

The Fuel Fund has become increasingly important in efforts to help low-income people pay their winter utility bills as the federal government continues to cut social-service programs.

Community Action said the Maryland Energy Assistance Program provided $220,000 to almost 1,300 Howard families last year, with the average family getting about $226.

The exact amount of the state energy-assistance program funds for this winter has not been determined, but the benefits to the average family are expected to drop to about $186 this winter.

That means needy families are likely to be even more dependent on the county fund, which helped about 300 families last year.

Moore said the higher state funding last winter was still too low, and this winter's unmet needs are likely to be even greater. "We didn't have enough money to meet the demand last year," Moore said. "Just let a cold spell come, and we're in trouble."

The county Fuel Fund has received $6,500 from the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland and $2,000 from corporate and individual donations. It wants a total of $20,000 to help the needy this winter.

As in Howard, social-service agencies throughout the region are holding fund-raising rallies to raise money for the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, which helps residents of Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Community Action, a nonprofit Howard agency, will hold its rally at noon today outside the county government building in Ellicott City. As a symbol of the drive, gloves will be given away.

Community Action also plans to announce the establishment of a county Fuel Fund Committee to maintain fund-raising efforts for the county program. The agency is seeking volunteers who will help with the fund-raising effort.

"We need folks to make the commitment to help keep people warm during the winter months," Moore said.

Under the 17-year-old Fuel Fund program, which relies on corporate and individual donations, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. pays one-third of an eligible low-income customer's bill, up to $200, and the fund and the customer pay the rest.

BGE customers will receive envelopes in their monthly bills for contributing to the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland.

To ensure that a donation benefits Howard residents, make checks payable to the Howard County Fuel Fund and send them to the Community Action Council at 6751 Columbia-Gateway Drive, Box 226, Columbia 21045.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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