February 9, 2011

Free loan offered to Maine oil customers left out in cold

Five credit unions agree to provide funds to the 400 clients who prepaid before Thibeault Energy shut down.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Five credit unions have agreed to give no-interest loans to customers of an oil company in Brunswick that shut down abruptly last month.

Thibeault Energy owes oil to at least 400 customers who paid ahead of time for heating oil that was never delivered.

Many of those customers have no more money for oil this winter, said state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

Forty of those prepaid customers are low-income families who receive financial help from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

"This is a crisis situation," Gerzofsky said.

Gerzofsky and Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham, have met with lawmakers from the Brunswick area and representatives of the Finance Authority of Maine, the state Attorney General's Office, the Maine Energy Marketers Association and MaineHousing, the state housing authority.

At a press conference Tuesday at the State House, Gov. Paul LePage announced that five credit unions have agreed to give no-interest loans of as much as $2,000 to Thibeault Energy customers.

People will have as long as a year to pay the money back, said Roger Sirois, president and CEO of the Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union. "This is one of those times when credit unions can make a difference in their communities," he said.

The other credit unions are Down East, Five County, Lisbon Community and Midcoast.

To receive loans, people will have to show proof that they lost money. The credit unions will make payments directly to oil companies.

MaineHousing, which manages energy assistance programs for low-income families, has obtained additional federal money to buy oil for the 40 Thibeault Energy customers who receive assistance from the federal program.

MaineHousing has scheduled a screening for former Thibeault Energy customers who think they may qualify for the federal assistance. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Brunswick's Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St.

Eligibility for the program is subject to federal income guidelines. A family of four earning as much as $44,100 a year may qualify. To learn more before Saturday, call the Governor's Office of Energy Independence and Security at 287-8927.


MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: tbell@mainetoday.com


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