Below is a press release from the Massachusetts Association for Community Action:
BROCKTON, MA — MASSCAP, Self Help Inc., along with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the network of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Energy Directors Association (MEDA), recently launched its annual statewide awareness campaign to ensure that vulnerable Massachusetts households are able to stay safe, warm and healthy this winter. Households of all kinds may be eligible for help with their home winter heating bills, no matter the energy source.
Applications for home energy assistance are currently being accepted online, and income-eligible households may receive help from November 1, 2022 through April 28, 2023. Both renters and homeowners are eligible for assistance. Depending on your heat source, households may be eligible for more than $1,000 in assistance.
This year applying has never been easier with the ability to apply online directly to the agency serving your town. The website www.heatinghelpMA.org (connected to the MASSCAP website) provides information for those in need of heating assistance as well as energy efficiency program information and a link to DHCD’s online application portal, www.toapply.org/MassLIHEAP.
This winter, heating costs are anticipated to the rise significantly across the region. The awareness campaign will include local outreach, television and billboard advertising, and will place a special emphasis on digital marketing and a push to reach families with children under 6.
The campaign started today with a kickoff event at Self Help Inc. office in Brockton that was also streamed on the MASSCAP YouTube Channel. Speakers included Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, U.S. Congress, 8th District of Massachusetts, Senator Michael Brady, Second Plymouth & Bristol, Representative Michelle Dubois, 10th Plymouth, Elizabeth Berube, Executive Director, Citizens for Citizens (CFC), Jonathan Carlson, CEO, Self Help Inc., Joseph Diamond, Executive Director, MASSCAP, Janice B. Fitzgerald, Director, Brockton Council on Aging, Mary Knittle, Energy Director, Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC), Louis Martin, Director, Division of Community Services, Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), John Messia, Director of Constituent Services, Mayor’s Office, City of Brockton, Peter Ostrosky, Massachusetts Fire Marshal, and a couple of Self Help clients that have benefitted from the programs. We also heard video messages from Senator Edward Markey and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“As the temperature drops, families across the Commonwealth are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of energy, caused by the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” said Senator Markey. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we’re fueling the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program with the funding and support it needs, so that it can in turn help heat households across the Commonwealth this winter. I look forward to continuing to work alongside MASSCAP, Self Help Inc., and the Massachusetts Energy Directors Association keep LIHEAP on full blast in the months ahead.”
In her video, Senator Warren reminds us that “No family should have to make the decision between paying their bills to keep their children warm, putting food on the table, and keeping the lights on. LIHEAP helps families avoid having to make that terrible choice.” She went to say, “I pushed consistently in the Senate for more and for expedited LIHEAP funding, and I am going to keep on doing so with all of my Senate colleagues.”
“We are proud to work with excellent local partners at Community Action Agencies to provide relief to families across the state,” said Jennifer Maddox, Undersecretary, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. “We encourage anyone who may need assistance paying their winter heating bills to explore their eligibility, and we ask others who know loved ones or neighbors who could benefit from this free resource to apply, as well. No one should have to worry about their ability to access adequate heating.”
Joe Diamond, Executive Director, MASSCAP explained, “Every year we update the state legislature on the need for state resources. We are grateful for their past support including resources early in 2022. In light of the extreme rise in the cost to heat your home for all fuel sources, we are asking the state to consider providing resources of up to $50M for this season. Diamond also notes, “The goals that we pursue have everything to do with helping our vulnerable friends and neighbors living with low incomes to become economically stable and mobile. The Home Energy Assistance Program is a comprehensive approach to helping so many households across the Commonwealth heat their homes safely and efficiently. We work closely with allied organizations to help us reach the people we know need it the most.”
Home energy assistance is offered through the federal program (LIHEAP) that helps households making less than 60% of state median income to address home energy costs. In Massachusetts, the program is administered by DHCD in partnership with community-based organizations, CAAs, and the City of Cambridge. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on several factors, including household size and combined gross annual income of residents 18 and older. The program provides assistance for all sources of heat, including oil, electricity, natural gas, propane, kerosene, wood and coal. For example, a family of four, making up to $81,000 would be eligible for help.
Through related programs available through the same application there are home energy efficiency opportunities that provide not only payment relief and utility discounts, but also life-saving emergency heating repair and replacement and stabilizing, full scale energy efficiency measures. These holistic programs allow both renters and homeowners to spend a smaller percentage of their income to meet their energy costs.
“This coming winter, market manipulation by the gas and oil lobby will cause sky high home heating prices. Thankfully for Brockton we have Self Help that will distribute federal and state heating dollars to individuals and families in need,” State Representative (10th Plymouth) Michelle Dubois proclaimed. “I encourage everyone who is worried about how they are going to heat their homes to apply for Fuel Assistance.”
“Fuel assistance is a lifesaving program, plain and simple, and with the sustained high cost of energy and utility costs, and the unprecedented cost of living increases, our clients are facing a financial storm not seen in a generation,” reported Jon Carlson, Executive Director, Self Help Inc. “We are grateful to Congressman Lynch for his tremendous support and advocacy in Congress, as well as our local legislations, for their continued effort, especially this past year, with the releasing funds that has been critical in helping those that are of low-income stay warm.”
“Today, I would like to thank Self-Help Inc. and their passionate volunteers for always being at the forefront in assisting low-income families with fuel and energy assistance, SNAP, rental assistance, and more! With over 30 cities and towns influenced, Self-Help Inc. provides inclusive and equitable opportunities of growth for all communities,” said State Senator Michael Brady.
“Getting fuel assistance and a new heating system has made such a difference in my life, and being on a fixed income, I would not have been able to stay in my home, I will forever be grateful to Self Help, Inc.,” Eva Haynes from Brockton declared.
Eligibility guidelines (snapshot of guidelines below) can be found at www.heatinghelpma.org. It is important to note that eligibility is based on the last four weeks of gross income and that any additional stimulus funds or pandemic unemployment assistance funds do not count toward income.
The Massachusetts Association of Community Action’s 23 private, non-profit human service and advocacy organizations work to administer key anti-poverty programs in every city and town in the Commonwealth. These organizations serve approximately 600,000 low-income people annually, more than half of them with incomes below 125% of the federal poverty level.
For more than 50 years, Community Action Agencies have been on the front lines of addressing poverty — administering federal programs, federal community services and community development grants, and state funds. CAAs are economic engines in cities and towns across Massachusetts, providing communities with an annual infusion of over $500 million in total resources. CAAs generate at least twice that amount helping clients become economically stable and mobile.
About the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development
The Department of Housing and Community Development, through its community and business partners, provides affordable housing options, financial assistance, and other support to Massachusetts communities. We oversee different types of assistance and funding for consumers, businesses, and non-profit partners.