With the leaves rapidly changing and falling from the trees and the weather getting cooler, I want to encourage folks to check their eligibility for heating assistance.

Susan Deschambault

So far, community action agencies — which includes York County Community Action Corp. (YCCAC) — have received more than 18,000 applications for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).

I know that the average price of heating oil remains above $4 per gallon, which is why people should apply for help if they need it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Costs are high, and funds are available to help people. HEAP helps cover the cost of propane, natural gas, wood pellets and any other fuel that is used as a primary heating source.

At the current federal funding level, HEAP will help cover the cost of about half a tank of oil, but Maine’s public officials have requested additional funding from Washington.

To apply for HEAP, people need to call YCCAC at 207-459-2950. You can be a homeowner, a renter, or live in subsidized housing and still qualify for HEAP. Income eligibility is calculated at 150 percent of the federal poverty line, or 60 percent of the state median income.

For a family of four, that’s an annual household income of $59,348 or less. YCCAC caseworkers will help check your eligibility. They also can check to see if you are eligible for a 12-month medical expense deduction.

Advertisement

Once you connect with an energy specialist, the application will take about 20 minutes to complete. You can complete the application over the phone; internet is not required. However, online applications will become available thanks to a bill from my colleague Sen. Chip Curry. You will need documents that show your Social Security number, electric bill and income.

Paul Sabato, a driver with Heatable, delivers oil to a home in Scarborough in October of 2021. Home energy prices have skyrocketed in the past year. Gregory A. Rec photo/Press Herald

Applications take two weeks to process, and then YCCAC will mail a benefit letter to successful applicants. You can then contact the fuel delivery company and request a fuel delivery. The benefit money goes directly to the fuel delivery company.

It’s important to get an application on file because YCCAC can also check to see if you are eligible for other assistance programs, such as the Electricity Lifeline Program, Arrearage Management Program and the Energy Crisis Intervention Program.

All of these programs can help people get through the winter and use their dollars for food, housing and other essentials.

Maine Housing also recently announced the Water Assistance Program, which will help clear past due balances or establish a one-time benefit that can be applied to a current or future water or wastewater bill.

In both cases, the payment will be made directly to the utility provider on behalf of an eligible applicant. People can find the application online. Completed applications, along with water bills, proof of income and citizenship documents, should be mailed to Maine Housing, Energy and Housing Services, 26 Edison Drive, Augusta, ME 04330.

For more information, visit www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/energy/energydetails/mwap.

Finally, if you haven’t filed your 2021 Maine State Income Tax Return, you still have until Oct. 31 to file and receive your $850 check, if you’re eligible. If you need assistance filing your taxes, please contact Pam White at YCCAC. Pam can be reached at [email protected] or 207-800-3541.

Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. She can be reached at [email protected] or 207-287-1515. 

Comments are not available on this story.