AUGUSTA – MaineHousing is providing an additional $12.3 million in assistance this week to purchase more heating fuel for approximately 40,000 low-income Maine households.
“The additional federal funding we received for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) allows us to increase the average heating assistance benefit from $553 to $829,” said MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick. “The additional funds we are sending this week will purchase more heating fuel for low-income households that already have received LIHEAP.”
Households who have not already received LIHEAP assistance will automatically receive the higher benefit amount when payments are made.
“Given the very cold weather we have experienced and the significant increase in the cost of heating fuel, these Maine households – many of whom are elderly and living on fixed income – can use the added heating assistance,” McCormick said.
Because of the increased funding that Congress approved, Maine now has $49.4 million for heating assistance through the regular LIHEAP program.
McCormick noted that MaineHousing will use the latest supplemental funding of $2.9 million awarded January 28 for emergency fuel situations, weatherization, and furnace replacements.
MaineHousing partners with Maine’s Community Action Agencies (CAAs) and more than 400 private fuel vendors in the state to deliver LIHEAP heating assistance to low-income households. The CAAs take and process the applications for MaineHousing. In most cases MaineHousing sends LIHEAP funds to fuel vendors, who then deliver fuel to eligible households.
MaineHousing expects to provide heating assistance to as many as 64,000 households this heating season. Last year it provided benefits totaling $52.8 million to over 62,100 households.
Households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (or 75 percent of area median income) are eligible to apply for LIHEAP. Higher incomes (up to 228% of federal poverty guidelines) are allowed for households susceptible to hypothermia.
McCormick noted that the average annual household income of LIHEAP recipients was $16,679 last heating season. LIHEAP benefits are scaled so that households with the lowest incomes receive the most assistance. More than half (53 percent) of the recipients are either elderly or people with disabilities.
Additional information about the LIHEAP program is available at MaineHousing’s website.