Amid spike in fuel assistance requests, local businesses helping ‘bridge the gap’

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-01-2023 2:33 PM

GREENFIELD — The support of local businesses is helping to “bridge the gap” in services for those in need of fuel assistance but who don’t necessarily meet federal requirements for receiving it.

“We were thinking of ways to be of help to local families in need this winter, as rising energy costs leave more and more people vulnerable,” said Greenfield Cooperative Bank President and CEO Tony Worden, who announced a $30,000 donation to area fuel assistance programs, $20,000 of which will go toward Community Action Pioneer Valley’s Fuel Assistance Program.

According to Community Action Pioneer Valley’s Executive Director Clare Higgins, the nonprofit’s Fuel Assistance Program “meets the needs of thousands of households.” Still, she added, “some seniors, veterans and families need more help.”

Across the region, applications for fuel assistance are up by about 20% compared to 2021, Higgins said. Although this may be partly due to higher fuel costs, she noted the application is now also available online, whereas before it was handled in person.

“We’ve received about 7,600 applications to date, and about two-thirds of them have been certified,” Higgins explained. “Some of them are still pending certification; a number have been denied.”

The state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a free resource, offered by Community Action Pioneer Valley in partnership with the Department of Housing and Community Development, to help eligible households pay a portion of winter heating bills, according to the nonprofit. Eligible applications cannot exceed 60% of Massachusetts’ estimated state median income.

Higgins said the program was able to step in as an emergency solution to roughly 700 households this year that had no heat or fuel. In those cases, the nonprofit can “speed up the application to get it approved.”

“There are income limitations and also a max we can pay on someone’s bill,” Higgins explained, noting that some circumstances exceed what the fuel assistance program can support. “This allows us to fill in gaps on what the bill is.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Ryan Zaveral, Shane MacDowell cross finish line first in River Rat Race
Families fume at Orange Elementary School Committee over LPN hire
Dennis Carey marks 40 years participating in River Rat Race
Historical society presents history of Nichewaug
After six decades, River Rat Race paddles on
58th Athol River Rat Race results

These dollars, set aside in a fund called “Heat Up,” can also be used to finance repairs or improve heating systems so they function better.

“If somebody is denied fuel assistance, we may still be able to provide them Heat Up money,” she added. “That’s where the (Greenfield Cooperative Bank’s) money and other donations we’ve gotten ... make a huge difference.”

Jan. 12 workshop planned

Anyone interested in applying for fuel assistance is invited to a workshop on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 10 a.m. to noon at The Brick House Community Resource Center on Third Street in Turners Falls. Applicants should bring photo identification, a list of all household members, proof of income, information on heating bills and an active lease or mortgage statement.

To register, contact John Camerota at 586-335-9693 or jcamerota@brickhousecrc.org.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

]]>