ELLSWORTH – A change is helping more families who may depend on heating assistance.
“Downeast Community Partners how can I help you,” said an employee at the organization.
Phones at Downeast Community Partners are already ringing. The organization is getting ready to take applications for its fuel assistance program.
“We serve both Washington and Hancock counties,” said Home Energy Services Director Lee Hardison.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, offers a way for families or those who are in the aging population to get help with heating costs.
“Electricity, kerosene, oil, propane, natural gas, wood, wood pellets,” said Hardison listing off the different types of fuel they help cover the cost.
This year, the program is changing statewide in a big way.
“Maine Housing has made the decision to move away from the federal poverty guidelines and go with the state median income,” said Hardison.
What this means is that the cap on the amount of household income has increased. Now there are many different variables that go into how much help a family can get.
For example, a four-family member household over a three-month period last year showed a cap at $9,413. This year the cap is increased to $12,794.
“A lot more people will be eligible for LIHEAP this year than last year,” said Hardison.
Having the extra help with finances can allow families to use money on other items they might go without.
“Medicine, more food. Gas for the car to get back and forth to work,” said Hardison.
The center is open for taking appointments Wednesday. Staff members said the phones will be very busy. They ask people to be patient and even suggest it may be better to call next week because phone lines might not be as busy.
Some people who are renting may also qualify. Check with your local Community Action Program to find out if you are eligible.