Released: Nov 29, 2022
AUGUSTA – MaineHousing this week launched the first iteration of its online application for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
The new online portal will allow those seeking heating assistance to start the application process remotely while sending their application information directly to the local community action agency that will then be tasked with verifying and processing the application.
“This is an important first step in our efforts to further streamline the HEAP application process,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “This portal will make applying for HEAP more accessible for thousands of Maine households and we hope it will expand the reach of the program.”
It’s important that HEAP applicants who have already been scheduled for an appointment with their local community action agency not use the online portal this season. Doing so would result in a duplicate application, slowing down processing time for all applicants.
MaineHousing and its partnering community action agencies across Maine have already accepted and processed nearly 5,000 more HEAP applications than they did over the same period last heating season with more than 33,000 applications already in hand representing more than $16.5 million in heating assistance.
“We are excited to make this program more accessible to people who need it,” said Megan Hannan, Executive Director of Maine Community Action Partnership, the membership association of the Maine community action agencies. “COVID helped us to modernize the program by allowing us to conduct interviews over the phone or via another electronic means; adding this front-end step means even less dependence on our customers having to take time to travel to our offices for in-person meetings, as used to be required."
Each year the program distributes between $35 million and $40 million of aid through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
The new online application portal is ahead of schedule and is a response to a new state law that required an online application be in place by the end of the 2023 heating season, which started in October.
As part of the online process applicants will also be able to first check to see if they are income eligible before applying for the program.
Income-eligible applicants will then be asked to input their zip code, which will connect their application directly to their local community action agency, which will then verify household eligibility and process the payment to the heating fuel vendor.
Other key changes to Maine’s process, also now in place, are meant to make applying for HEAP easier and more efficient than ever before. These include categorical eligibility for households that have a member who receives help from another state benefit programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and/or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
HEAP is a federally funded program that is meant to help cover a portion of a household’s energy costs. Each year Maine’s program serves about 40,000 households and more than 60,000 people, the vast majority of them over the age of 65 or with children under the age of six in their households.
For more information about the HEAP program or to start your online application go to: HEAP Program (mainehousing.org)
Other heating resources:
A downloadable home heating guide from the Governor's Energy Office is available online and can be found at: Winter Heating Guide | Governor's Energy Office (maine.gov)A full list of housing and energy programs available to help Maine people can be found on the MaineHousing’s website at: www.mainehousing.org