FALMOUTH — As the temperature outside drops, those who struggle to pay for home heating fuel often turn to their towns for help.

And with cuts to the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, some may discover there’s no help to be found.

Falmouth has responded by making $10,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance available to residents in need. The Town Council unanimously approved the aid last week.

The town is also asking residents to help match the town’s donation. Town Clerk Ellen Planer said Tuesday that the town has already received eight private donations.

“The normal benefit last year was $800 per family. This year it’s down to $300,” Planer said of the LIHEAP funds. “It’s a huge hit for these people to take.”

LIHEAP allocations, which are one-time heating assistance payouts for families and individuals who have income levels low enough and expenses high enough to qualify, have been reduced by 60 percent.

Last year, Falmouth provided general assistance to 240 people. The town has already provided assistance to 79 people in this fiscal year. While not all of the people who qualify for general assistance receive heating assistance – some get help paying for rent, electricity or food – many of the people who come in asking for general assistance end up receiving heating assistance, too.

“It’s not for the whole winter – it’s a one-shot allocation. You get a one-time benefit and that’s it,” Planer said.

The town is hoping it won’t have to make such a large contribution to heating assistance every year. In 2008, a private citizen donated $10,000 to the program, saving the town from having to use its own funds.

“The hope is we can campaign to get an additional $10,000 to match what (the town) has put out,” Planer said.

Anyone interested in donating can contact Planer at 781-5253.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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