Assistance is offered in Massachusetts as part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, weatherization, and a resource known as HEARTWAP. The programs focus on helping people pay their utility bills, in particular winter heating costs. Many of these resources are paid for by the federal government, and the services focus on residents including senior citizens, disabled, and households with children.
When someone applies for one of these assistance programs, they will more than often be referred to or enrolled in additional services. For example, if an individual applies for LIHEAP fuel assistance, they can be enrolled in an energy conservation program such as weatherization. The state of Massachusetts is focused on doing whatever it can to get families warm during the winter, and to help them keep their power and utilities connected.
The main federal government funded program that is used to help low-income families and individuals pay their heating bills during the winter is LIHEAP, or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It is focused on low income families and people who are most at risk if they were to have their heating service disconnected, or if they were to run out of heating oil, propane or fuel. Renters and homeowners can apply, and income guidelines are in place.
If you are successfully enrolled, the exact amount of financial assistance that you will get from the state of Massachusetts will depend on your current heating costs, household income, housing status, and other factors. The community action agency, which oversees the program across Massachusetts, will pay your fuel assistance grant/benefit directly to your utility company or supplier. Only a portion of your bill will be paid. A representative from that community action agency will also help you obtain, or enroll in, programs such as weatherization or assist you with receiving a heating system repair if that is what you need.
In general, the lower your total income, the higher your cash benefit amount you will receive from the state. In the past, applicants may receive around $500 to $100 for their bills, and households with very high energy costs the previous year may qualify for an additional high energy benefit. Applicants can live in a single-family home, multi-family residence, or mobile home and still be eligible. You may use any type of heating fuel and still apply, as grants can pay for natural gas, oil, electricity, propane, and more.
While overall funding for the Massachusetts LIHEAP program comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, local community organizations in your town and city in Massachusetts will accept applications, make payments, determine eligibility, and handle all other matters questions that people may have about fuel assistance or conservation.
Families that are faced with a disconnection or who otherwise run out of heat can apply for the crisis assistance grant. This will accelerate the application process, and your application can be reviewed in less than one day.
Aid is focused on those Massachusetts residents who have received a final shutoff notice from their utility company, have run out of fuel (such as oil, propane, kerosene, etc.) or if their heating system no longer works. Other situations are covered as well, such as tenants with heat included in their rent and if you will be evicted within 72 hours.
Another option is the Massachusetts Heating Energy Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Assistance Program, or HEARTWAP. This is for people who own their home, and that are eligible for fuel assistance. This program is for those homeowners whose heating systems or furnaces are not working, and they will be able to receive free emergency repairs to their systems as part of this program. In some limited cases, homeowners who are qualified can even have their heating systems completely replaced.
MassSAVE is another government program that can help people lower their energy bills by switching to more energy-efficient appliances and items in their home. This can include Energy Star refrigerators, water heaters, lighting, CFL bulbs, etc. The state can help with installing insulation, and making other energy-saving improvements and modifications.
The fourth primary resource is the Massachusetts Weatherization Assistance Program, and your local community action agency or social service office will also process applications for this. It is paid for by the federal government, and it can help low income families save energy. It does this by making their homes more energy efficient and will install free updates to it, as indicated below.
Contractors and energy inspectors will visit your home and determine what type of work needs to be done to save energy and what can be done to help people reduce their heating bills. The inspectors will also do a safety and health audit in order to make sure that all energy-related systems are working properly, such as a fire alarm. If your heating system is found to be inadequate, they will refer you to HEARTWAP, see above.
As with most programs, such as LIHEAP, the weatherization program is focused on people with a member of your household has a disability or is elderly, families with young children, and even Native Americans. Renters can receive help if their landlord approves it.
Depending on factors such as the age of your home and needs, people may receive services such as insulation for your attic and walls, wrap for your water heater and pipes, seal cracks, installation of storm windows, or weatherization can make other energy-related improvements. When the program is complete, your home will be easier to heat and your fuel bills will be lower, with many Massachusetts families saving $400 or so per year on their utilities.
To get more information, or to find a community action agency to apply at, call the Massachusetts Heat Line at 1-800-632-8175.
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