Residents of Rhode Island who do not qualify for government assistance are the main beneficiaries of the Good Neighbor Energy. The program is set up as a non-profit and was formed in partnership between the Salvation Army and the numerous natural gas and electric companies that operate in the state. The financial aid paid out is for low to moderate income people that are facing a financial crisis and it is for those that don’t qualify or that have been turned away from other federal government and state of Rhode Island energy bill assistance programs.
Only a small number of applicants can receive help as funding is limited. The Good Neighbor Energy Fund relies on donations from local businesses and the general public. Money you donate is tax deductible as the organization is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt recipient. Utility companies will make matching grants to those donations so an even greater number of households can be assisted by any contributions.
While the program does operate year round, and Rhode Island families can apply at any time, the greatest demand is during the cold winter months. This is when even more people struggle to keep up with their power bills. Also, if some people lose their heat then they could even put themselves at serious risk to a medical condition. For example, the elderly losing heat during a cold stretch of winter weather can be a serious concern. So when the Good Neighbor Energy Fund disburses funds in Rhode Island on a year-round basis, they try to provide additional financial assistance during November through about April.
Most of those who receive help are not income eligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Maybe they make a little too much money or LIHEAP has run out of funds. A number of beneficiaries are also faced with a financial crisis and are faced with an inability to pay for a deliverable fuel, an electric or natural gas bill.
The fact is that many state programs have strict conditions, including income guidelines, that disqualify many people who experience a temporary need for assistance due to unexpected circumstances. So this resource can help fill that gap.
Note that applicants need to be able to demonstrate their financial crisis, such as domestic violence, loss of a job/reduction of hours, unexpected medical bills, divorce, death of family member, car or home repairs, fire, or some other conditions. If you just live beyond your means or so called mismanagement of your budget is not a adequate excuse for not being able to pay a utility bill.
Other conditions include the applicant cannot live in subsidized housing, they need to have copies of a picture ID, proof of income, proof of household members, and a current utility bill. In addition, the Rhode Island residents cannot receive assistance from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund or more than one fund even if LIHEAP is helped with one utility bill and the client is requesting help for the other electric bill.
Some help may be offered if your power was disconnected. In cases that involve restoration of terminated service or the avoidance thereof, cash grants should be given only to restore power. The Energy Fund will not pay for old accounts in collections or a restoration of service unless the applicant can provide proof that they are making an effort to pay the old debt on their own.
As indicated, while funding is limited, some of what may be offered includes up to 200 gallons of heating oil or $700, whichever comes first. If you use electric, then only up to $350 will be paid out. The non-profit won’t pay any back balances on your account. The Good Neighbor Energy Fund may also offer propane assistance too, if needed. Or receive wood if that is your main heating source. Any grant provided is one time assistance.
To apply for help, or make a donation, call a local Salvation Army center anywhere in Rhode Island. Or individuals can dial (401) 831-1119.
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