Friday, October 11, 2019

It’s almost heating season: Let's keep our community warm

By Bill Diamond

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing; the air is getting cooler and the nights are getting longer. Fall is here and with it comes the start of heating season, that is, the time of year when you have to heat your house.

Heating a home can be a significant burden for many people in our community. Most people use oil to heat their homes, the price of which can rise and fall based on a number of different factors, and it often doesn’t take much for heating costs to get out of hand unexpectedly. This issue is especially bad for seniors on fixed incomes, because while their costs might go up, their income doesn’t change.

This is a tough spot to be in. I have heard stories of folks wearing extra layers to stretch a tank of oil to its limits, buying small quantities of fuel at a time, or cutting back on other necessities just to keep their house warm.

There are a few options available to help people who are having trouble paying their heating bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that provides money to low-income homeowners and renters to help pay heating costs. It generally doesn’t cover all heating costs, but it does provide temporary assistance to those most in need. In Cumberland County, the Opportunity Alliance in Portland administers this program. Applications are taken by appointment (phone or in person) from September through March.  For more information or to make an appointment, call (207) 553-5900, or email

LIHEAP helps a lot of people, but it is somewhat limited, and every year there are people who don’t end up getting the help they need. In that case, there’s Windham Neighbor Helping Neighbors. 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors is an organization I, along with Windham Reps. Mark Bryant and Gary Plummer, founded in 2007. That year, heating fuel prices hit record highs, and folks were calling our State House offices looking for help heating their homes. In our first year of operation, we served 17 families. Now we serve up to 100 families a year.

The organization is completely volunteer-run and funded by generous donations from individuals,
local businesses and other organizations. Our annual gala each year is a big part of our fundraising efforts, and this year's event, held on Sept. 27 at the Stone Barn at St. Joseph’s College, was our largest turnout ever. I am so grateful for the continuing support of community members, who help us serve neighbors in need. To donate, volunteer or find out how you or someone you know can get help, visit or call me at (207) 892-8941.

Finally, for folks who are looking for a long-term solution to high heating costs, Efficiency Maine has several programs and incentives that can help you increase your home’s insulation or buy a more energy efficient heating system, such as a heat pump. In fact, this year the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a new law to increase incentives for heat pumps, so that hopefully, we will have fewer people who need help paying their heating bills in the winter.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my office with any questions, comments or concerns. You can call (207) 287-1515 or email me at It’s a pleasure to serve as your state senator.

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