The main heating bill assistance program in Vermont is Fuel Assistance, which is the state’s version of the LIHEAP. Thousands of low income families receive help from this federal government resource every year, and it is usually offered at the same time as weatherization, and the application process will be the same. These are the two main federal government low income energy assistance programs for families with young children, seniors, the disabled, and single individuals. Funding is limited to those who need the most help and who meet qualifications. Both renters and homeowners in Vermont can apply for grants from LIHEAP.
There are income guidelines in place that are based on the number of people in your home. The government will examine other factors including your base wages, Social Security, pension benefits, total assets, and other criteria when determining eligibility. The income and assets of everyone in your home will be reviewed as part of the weatherization and fuel assistance application process.
Individuals can apply at their local social service office or community action agency. Or dial 1-800-479-6151 to request an application. Vermont has also established a special phone number for people who are 60 years of age or older. They can dial the Senior Helpline at 1-800-642-5119 for information on LIHEAP or for additional assistance in completing the application. All funding is limited, offered on a first come basis, and depends on many factors.
Vermont also administers a Crisis Fuel Assistance program. This can kick into effect when someone is out of fuel, they are faced with a disconnection, or if they have no money to buy more heating oil. Grants from crisis assistance can help you pay your energy company to turn your power back on, money can pay for a furnace repair, or the grant can be used to buy propane, electricity, kerosene, natural gas, wood, or oil.
This component runs from November to April. While an application needs to be completed in person, there can be exceptions made for elderly or disabled residents and those who are otherwise not able to apply in person. There is also an emergency and weekend number that can be dialed, which is 1-800-479-6151.
Many people who are enrolled in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program / LIHEAP also receive heating bill assistance from other sources. This includes a program from Central Vermont Public Service known as Shareheat. WARMTH is another emergency program for people almost out of heating fuel and/or who have had their utility service disconnected. Normally up to $200 can be provided over the course of the winter.
Another statewide discount program operates. Qualified individuals will receive up to a 25% discount off the monthly charge for the first 600 kilowatt hours of energy they use. This usually amounts to about $300 per year. One-time forgiveness of any past due balance on your account may be offered as well. This is run by the DCF – Economic Services Division out of Waterbury. Call 1-800-775-0516 for information on this savings/discount service. Similar to most other resources, priority is for low income families and the elderly.
Case workers from your community action agency can also help people negotiate payment or installment plans with your electric or natural gas company. This can allow individuals to either enter into a payment plan or prevent disconnection. Call the agency first to set up an appointment.
Save heat and fuel from Vermont's free Weatherization Program. This is another federal government funded resource that was created in order to help low income residents, with a focus on those who are most vulnerable. So the people who get priority for this free energy conservation program are older Vermonters, senior citizens, people with disabilities, elderly, and families with young children. It will help people save fuel and money on their heating bills by improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
The application process and income guidelines are very similar, if not the same as the LIHEAP program indicated above, and it is based on household income and size. There are some automatic enrollments that are made. For example, if a household receives Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Reach Up, or some other public aid from the state of Vermont, they will be automatically enrolled in the program.
A number of improvements and updates will be made. First, a review/audit of your home will be done by well trained contractors. This includes a state-of-the-art building diagnostics including heating system testing and infrared scan, blower door, and even a carbon monoxide test. The, at no cost to the homeowners, a full-service energy-efficient retrofit will be done including attic insulation, dense-pack sidewall insulation, air sealing, and also heating system upgrades and replacements. Renters can also apply if their landlord agrees. Dial 1-800-479-6151 or call your local community action agency for more information or to enroll.
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