CITGO, Venezuela Distribute Oil To U.S. Services

NEW YORK (CBS) ― For scores of low-income families it will be like the equivalent of winning a small lottery jackpot. A program run by former Congressman Joe Kennedy will deliver free heating oil – donated by Citgo and the Chavez regime in Venezuela – to some 200,000 households. CBS 2 takes a look at how the program works, and who qualifies.

"I live within my means"…For Rebecca Santiago, the means are modest. And it's not easy to pay for oil heat at her home in the Bronx. Of course it's a struggle, so when she saw the offer for 100 free gallons of oil from former congressman Joe Kennedy, she became quite curious.

"Free Oil!"

Santiago is a long time fan of the Kennedy family. She treasures a note Jackie Kennedy sent her in 1964. Despite her love for the Kennedy's, she was still skeptical upon hearing the former congressman's offer.

"Sometimes you see things, and when you call, it's something different," Santiago said.

Getting through to 1-877-JOE-4-OIL is tough – operators are swamped.

"Please call back later," is the common response. Apparently, there's good reason.

According to CITGO, The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program will provide an estimated 112 million gallons of fuel this winter to be distributed in more than 224,000 households and 250 social service providers in 23 states. These totals include the CITGO-Venezuela Tribal Heating Oil Program.

Once CBS 2 was able to get through, operators said they would send an application, asking basic information about household size and annual income.

Kennedy's office disclosed the income limit as 60 percent of the state median. So a New York family of four, for example, must make less than $43,302 to qualify. The only income verification is your signature, certifying you are telling the truth.

Santiago applied on Dec. 4, 2007, and a week later received a voucher to pay her oil company when it delivered 100 gallons on Dec. 14.

Santiago says it's almost $400 she won't have to spend, warming her home. For many, that's a warm thought.

Kennedy's office says every qualifying household that applies will be approved until all the available oil is allocated. That is projected to occur before the application period ends on Feb. 29, so the time to apply is now. 

Source: WCBSTV