Red Lake receives donation for fuel assistance

Staff Reports
12/31/07

RED LAKE, Minn. - The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians' Community Action Program/weatherization program has received $500,760 for a fuel oil assistance program, program director Ramona Desjarlait recently announced. The program is for eligible Red Lake members, both on- and off-reservation. The program begins immediately for the 2007 - '08 winter season.

The donation is from the Citizens Energy Programs Association in partnership with CITGO Petroleum Corp.

This is Red Lake's first year of participation, according to Desjarlait, although she said the six other Ojibwe tribes that make up the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe participated in the 2006 - '07 heating season.

Earlier in the year, Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., Treasurer Darrell G. Seki Sr. and tribal council members Glenda Martin and Donald May, along with Desjarlait, met with representatives of CITGO and Citizens Energy Corp. to learn more about the program and how it can help low-income families and elders. Red Lake's CAP/Weatherization program decided to apply for the donation and provided several bits of information needed to determine eligibility by the grantor.

Jourdain received the letter confirming the success of the application and the donation from Citizens Energy on Dec. 10.

''I'm really excited for this to be happening for our people,'' Desjarlait said, ''because often our programs run out of funds in late winter, and this will really help people.''

Jourdain said he was especially pleased that part of the award will be available for urban members. ''We are constantly looking for ways to serve our members who live off the reservation, and now we have an opportunity to help them with fuel assistance.''

Desjarlait said that she expects the fuel assistance to serve 1,205 eligible reservation families and an estimated 400 off-reservation members in various communities throughout Minnesota.

''I worked with formula guidelines supplied by CEPA. We will be able to provide 100 gallons per eligible household figured at $2.60 per gallon.''

She and CAP/Weatherization will work with local vendors that are currently delivering fuel to eligible clients now if all agree. Twenty percent of the fuel is available for facilities and institutions.

''After all families have been served, additional assistance may be provided to those eligible based on level of need,'' Desjarlait said.

In order for Red Lake to receive the donation, the tribe agreed to send Citizens Energy a report every other week with respect to how the tribe used the funds during the preceding two weeks. In addition to who was served and how much fuel was purchased, it involves close communications between vendors, the CAP Agency, the recipient and Citizens Energy.

CITGO started the tribal heating oil program in November 2006, serving 163 tribes, most located in Alaska, but also serving tribes in New York, Montana, South Dakota and the six members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

The program for the 2007 - '08 season, carried out in partnership by CITGO and Citizens Energy, will provide 45 million gallons of heating oil to 224,000 families in 23 participating states at no cost. This includes 250 homeless shelters and 200 American Indian communities in 12 states including Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Local oil dealers will deliver 100 gallons of fuel to eligible families.

CITGO's commitment to providing fuel at no cost was developed two years ago in the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, when it stepped forward to help communities ravaged by the storms. At the same time, Citizens Energy began hearing from more families struggling to keep pace with rising energy costs.

''We approach every major oil company and every OPEC nation each year to ask that a small slice of their record profits go to help the poor,'' said Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II. ''Only one company - CITGO - and only one nation - Venezuela - stepped to the plate to offer a helping hand.''

Citizens Energy has provided discounted heating oil for the poor and elderly for almost 30 years. CITGO and Citizens Energy have a program that will provide up to 200 gallons of fuel for a 40 percent discount. The nonprofit energy company has a relationship with Venezuela going back to its earliest years.

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, refined waxes, asphalt and other industrial products. The company is owned by PDV America Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

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