Winter is coming, and with it, the cold weather that Mainers know so well. Maine people know that the cold is not something to be taken lightly, and we need to be prepared to get through the winter safely – and warmly.
The price of fuel may be cheaper than usual this year, but it can still be expensive to keep old Maine homes warm. There are several resources available for those who need assistance with heating costs.
Recognizing this critical need in our community, I, along with Sen. Bill Diamond and former Sen. Gary Plummer, founded Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors in 2007, a nonprofit that provides fuel assistance to Windham residents.
The mission of Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors is “to provide one-time emergency assistance to Windham residents experiencing a critical need for heating fuel; to help direct individuals to appropriate long-term resources and to promote a culture of neighbors helping neighbors.” You can visit our website at www.windhamneighbors.org, or call me at 892-6591 to learn more.
Another resource is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which is available for both homeowners and renters. Households with an income lower than 150 percent of the poverty level are eligible to apply. For example, a family of four whose income is $36,375 or less would qualify.
If anyone in the household is over age 60, below age 2 or has a health condition that puts them at risk of hypothermia, the eligibility is adjusted. You can get help from LIHEAP in Windham by calling the Opportunity Alliance, at 553-5900, or emailing them at email@example.com.
If you are eligible for LIHEAP, you can also apply for additional programs through the Opportunity Alliance, including Furnace Repair or Replacement, and the Emergency Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP), which can provide help once per heating season to avoid electricity cut-off.
Due to low oil prices this year, LIHEAP is shifting a portion of its funds from fuel purchases to energy-efficiency improvements to help weatherize homes. These extra funds will be used to insulate, air-seal and improve heating systems in nearly 1,000 homes. With our state’s old housing stock, these projects will only address a fraction of the need, but it is a step forward. Weatherization projects also help create jobs, although there is a need for more trained workers in this field.
For those with old or inefficient heating systems that are especially costly, the Rural Development Repair and Rehabilitation Program is a great option. You can find out more at the Maine page on the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development website, which is www.rurdev.usda.gov/ME.
Finally, 211 Maine connects individuals in need with community resources available to them. You can call 211 or visit www.211maine.org for a complete directory. Our town may have General Assistance funds available for basic living expenses, including heating oil, and the Windham Town Office can be reached at 892-1906.
As you can see, there are many options out there for “neighbors helping neighbors” to keep ourselves and our neighbors warm. If you are aware of neighbors or community members who may need help, make sure to let them know about their options. Stay warm!
As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Mark Bryant is serving his fifth non-consecutive term in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.