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Fuel Assistance

Fuel Assistance. We aren’t quite sure which city this is, but the image here from 1910 is of a relief worker with a bucket of coal being passed from him to the woman with the orange coat. Fuel assistance in  19th c. small towns and villages was often managed by the Overseers of the Poor (a selected group of town officers) and it consisted of a wood or coal delivery paid for by the Town. To qualify, you had to be a “settled resident”, someone who was born in the town or who had paid taxes for a period of 5-10 years. Sometimes, the Overseers of the Poor could be gracious, but they tended to be strict about the rules.

As US cities grew in size and diversified in population, the late 19th c. needs of the poor also increased and numerous non-government charities began providing fuel assistance to meet the gaps in available aid–especially to newly arrived immigrant communities, or, poor factory laborers who were often out of work in the winter months.

The bulk of the fuel assistance programs run by cities and states today are funded with the help of US Congress and the Federal Budget. The program is called LIHEAP–Low Income Energy Assistance Program–and it was first funded in 1981. In addition to fuel it also provides help with weatherizing homes. Keep warm, and Happy New Year to all.

Image: Colored Magic Lantern slide, circa 1910. Man on truck hands bucket of coal to woman who is surrounded by younger children, many of whom also carry buckets. Courtesy: Salvation Army Archives

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