Keeping warm this winter

The weather is starting to get cooler, and that means that the heating season will soon be upon us. The current economic problems, coupled with high heating oil prices, mean that more Mainers than ever will need help keeping warm this winter, and I thought this would be a good time to let people know about some of the programs out there that can help keep people warm in the coming months.

One of the most important programs is the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This is a federally-funded heating assistance program, and the exact level of benefits are still being determined in Washington. Last year, the average grant was about $900, but there is talk of cuts in the program nationally, so it may be less than that this year.

You’ll need to make an appointment with your regional community action program (CAP) agency to apply for LIHEAP, and I would advise you to make an appointment soon if you think you’ll need help this winter. In Cumberland County, this is the People’s Regional Opportunity Program (PROP – 800-698-4959), and in York County it is the York County Community Action Program (YCCAC – 800 965-5762). When you go in, they will also ask you if your house has any weatherization needs. If you do, they can sign you up for the weatherization program. If you qualify, an energy audit will be performed on your house, and you can get work done for the most cost-effective weatherization projects. This is a really great program, since the savings start right away and go on for year after year.
The Central Heating Improvement Program (CHIP) is another useful program for keeping warm. With CHIP, if your heating system is broken, and you fall within the income guidelines for the LIHEAP program, then the program will either repair your broken furnace, or if it can’t be repaired, they will pay to replace it with a new, more efficient one.

If you run out of fuel or get an electricity cut-off notice, and you can’t afford to take care of the problem, there is the Energy Crisis Intervention Program. Under this program, you can apply for a one-time crisis grant to keep you and your family from freezing. All of these programs are run through your regional CAP agency.

If you live in Windham, and you have exhausted all your other options for help keeping warm, there is the Neighbors Helping Neighbors” program. They can get you heating fuel in an emergency if you have no place else to turn. You can contact them through me at 892-8941.
If you have any problems with heat this winter, or if you have any issues with the state government, you can always reach me at the State House by calling 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail. I’ll be glad to see what I can do.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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