Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II, a long-time advocate for low-income families, stood with an elderly East Boston couple today to decry a proposed dramatic cut in the federal fuel assistance program.
"It's the Oliveris that are the heart and soul of our nation, and to say to them that they're going to be cold in their home because we need to balance the budget ... are you kidding me?'' Kennedy said, standing next to octogenarians Joe and Katherine Oliveri, in front of their Princeton Street house.
Kennedy, in his news conference, noted President Obama's visit to Boston today, saying that while he supports the president, he believes Obama has yielded too much to the Republican majority when it comes to next year's federal allotment for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
Kennedy said the White House budget seeks to slash funding for the program from $5.1 billion to $2.7 Billion. He said if it is approved by Congress, it would be devastating for families like the Oliveris who this winter have felt the effects of a 20 percent cut in fuel assistance last year.
The Oliveris said they stretched their oil this year by turning their thermostat down during the night, running their gas oven during the day, and rationing essential medicines.
In response to a question about what she would say to Obama if he were listening, Katherine Oliveri said, "I would tell him he's put us in a very bad situation. He bargained with our health, because I need my medications, I can't do without it and here I was trying to spread them out because I couldn't buy them. It was very dangerous and I was very scared.''
"We're trying to balance this budget on the backs of people who get fuel assistance, on the backs of people who get WIC [the federal food stamp program] ... We're cutting out senior housing and on and on and on," US Representative Michael Capuano said.
"Now I understand some of these programs might be on the table at some point in time. My problem is that they're on the table first. We couldn't cut out different things in the Defense Department that we all know don't work. Hundreds of millions of dollars for planes that we don't need and don't work," said Capuano, who was joined at the event by his fellow Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern.
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