AUGUSTA – More than 19,000 low-income households will be warmer after receiving fuel deliveries under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
MaineHousing distributed the first round of LIHEAP payments late last week. The households receiving the heating assistance are those already screened for eligibility by representatives at one of nine community action agencies (CAAs) statewide.
In most cases, the LIHEAP benefits are sent to fuel dealers on behalf of those households and not directly to the households. The heating assistance program is intended to assist with heating expenses, and not to cover the full heating bill for the winter.
In mid-November, MaineHousing received $34.9 million in LIHEAP funding, which represents 90 percent of Maine’s total expected funding of $38.5 million. The additional 10 percent is being held back in case of sequestration. If MaineHousing receives the full $38.5 million, it will be on par with last winter’s allocation.
So far this winter, MaineHousing has sent out $10.7million to help 19,038 households. The estimated average seasonal benefit is $556. Last year at this time, $7.8 million was distributed to assist 24,990 eligible households, and the average seasonal benefit was $483.
Approximately 64,000 households will be screened for LIHEAP eligibility by the nine community action agencies this winter. The CAAs began meeting one-on-one with low-income individuals to determine eligibility starting last August and will continue to do so through April. MaineHousing anticipates that approximately 55,000 households will qualify for benefits ranging from a minimum of $144 to a maximum of $1,656, with an average benefit of $556.
The amount of LIHEAP assistance a household may receive is based on household size and income, energy costs, and other factors. A household may be eligible for assistance if the total household income falls within income eligibility guidelines, or below 60% of the state area median income, whichever is less. Eligibility for households with incomes between 150% and 170% of the federal poverty guidelines is limited to those households with a member who is susceptible to hypothermia, such as elderly, a child twenty-four months of age or under, or with a doctor's diagnosis.
Households needing emergency heating assistance are encouraged to visit community action agencies or call 2-1-1, a service of the United Way, to receive information on what programs or services may be available.
To view eligibility requirements, please visit www.mainehousing.org and select “LIHEAP applications” in the “highlights” box.