We may be in the middle of winter, but there’s still time to get financial help to heat your home. It’s been a tough winter when it comes to bills; Massachusetts residents are seeing a significant increase in their utility bills with electricity prices up 64% and natural gas prices up nearly 30%. This spike in energy costs, combined with inflation on essential goods has left many struggling to pay their utility bills.
The government has set aside money to help people with lower incomes pay their heating bills. Many eligible customers don’t take advantage of the option simply because they are not aware of it or think they may not qualify. People who own homes may qualify. LIHEAP benefits target households with low incomes, particularly those that have a high home energy burden (percentage of income that goes to heating and cooling bills) and/or have members who are elderly, disabled, and/or a young child.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides help to people with low, moderate, and fixed incomes to pay their utility bills. The program has seen its funding doubled by Congress. The Massachusetts legislature added to the funding last fall. The state approved an additional $57 million. AARP Massachusetts pushed for the added funding.
You may qualify and not even know it. Eligibility for home energy assistance is based on several factors, including (but not limited to) household size and gross annual income of all household members 18 years and older. Those households making up to 60% of state median income are eligible, for instance a family of 4 making $81,561 would be eligible for the program. Your local agency can help you determine if you qualify, and eligibility and benefit information is available online here.
Here's a chart from MASSCAP that explains eligibility
The online application continues through April 30, 2023 You can apply online, in person at the LIHEAP agency in your area, or by mail. Use the LIHEAP portal to find your agency or start the application.
First time applicants must participate in an intake appointment, to get started please submit an online application or contact your local agency.
As part of the application process, please be prepared to share necessary information, including but not limited to:
- photo identification for the head of household or primary applicant (e.g., driver’s license)
- a list of all household members information on your heating bills (e.g., heating company name and account number)
- information on your housing situation (e.g., an active lease or mortgage)
- statement proof of income for 30 days prior to application date (e.g., wages, pension)
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Fund
If you don’t qualify for LIHEAP because you make too much money, try the Massachusetts Good Neighbor fund. Now in its 38th year, the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund has provided energy assistance to hundreds-of-thousands of residents in temporary crisis who are struggling to pay their energy bills and do not qualify for federal or state energy funds.
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund is available to any Massachusetts resident who, because of temporary financial difficulty, cannot meet a month's energy expense and is not eligible for state or federal energy assistance. Income must fall between 60 and 80 percent of the state's median income levels
Learn more here.
Your local utility provider may also offer some assistance. Ask about special discount rates for income qualified customers, setting up a payment plan, and enrollment in energy efficiency and weatherization audit programs to help you save money by reducing your energy usage
AARP Massachusetts hosted a telephone town hall February 2nd on winter heating assistance programs. We heard from a number of members who had issues. You may have similar issues. You can listen to the recording here.
Home Energy Assistance programs play a critically important role to protect public health and safety by ensuring that all families and individuals have safe access to home heating.
IF you’re looking for additional help, your local council on aging is a good starting point. Councils on Aging in Massachusetts provide a wealth of information to help citizens grow old in their community. They can point you in the right direction to other programs that could help you save money. To find your local COA (Council on Aging) click here
General Community Action landing page: www.communityactionma.org
Agency lookup: www.masscap.org/agencies/
Heating Help (Fuel Assistance): www.heatinghelpma.org
Free Tax Prep: www.masscap.org/freetaxprep