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An additional $18 million in federal heating assistance funds have been released for lower income Massachusetts residents this winter.

The Massachusetts money was included in the nearly $454 million in additional assistance released to all states Thursday under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren hailed the move. The Massachusetts Democrats had pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make the money available.

The decision follows recent passage of a spending bill that included more funding for the program.

Residential heating oil prices in Massachusetts have increased nearly 25 cents a gallon, or roughly six percent, since the end of October while residential propane prices in the state have risen 45 cents a gallon, or 15 percent, during the same period.

(Associated Press)