Fuel assistance available for Franklin County residents

Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, says she anticipates “the need will be high” for fuel assistance this year.

Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, says she anticipates “the need will be high” for fuel assistance this year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


Staff Writer

Published: 11-06-2023 5:02 PM

With temperatures beginning to drop, state and local agencies are encouraging eligible residents to apply for fuel assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

LIHEAP, offered through Community Action Pioneer Valley, is a free service that helps pay a portion of winter heating costs for income-eligible households. To qualify, a person must be a renter or homeowner in Franklin County and meet certain income guidelines. At least one person in the household must be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident or a person with documented immigration status. 

“Oil prices have the prospect of going up, so I think the need will be high,” said Executive Director of Community Action Pioneer Valley. “We’re never able to meet everybody’s fuel needs, so we can usually do maybe a third of the cost, depending. We always encourage people to apply, but to the best of their ability, plan a little bit ahead, which most of our clients know that, or do that.”

Last year, the nonprofit received close to 9,000 applications, of which it was able to provide some level of assistance to about 8,000. Higgins expects a similar demand this year. 

“That’s usually the range we get,” Higgins said. “Some years we’ve gotten more.”

She noted that the application can now be filled out online through communityaction.us/program/fuel-assistance, though applicants are still welcome to visit in person at 377 Main St., Greenfield. Applications can take up to eight weeks to process.

Community Action Pioneer Valley serves as the local agency for HEAP, a statewide, federally funded service, which offers assistance from Nov. 1 to April 30. 

“The Massachusetts Home Energy Assistance Program is free because no resident should have to worry about heating their home during the wintertime,” said Ed Augustus Jr., Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities in a statement. “High fuel costs can have a devastating effect on household budgets and can even endanger Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. We encourage anyone who needs heating assistance to explore their eligibility by applying online or visiting the nearest administering agency. And to please share the information with loved ones or neighbors who could benefit from this free resource.”

Higgins added that applying for the fuel assistance program also acts as a gateway to other services the agency can provide, including weatherization.

“There are a lot of old homes in our region,” she said. “If you need some weatherization done, or heating system services, we can help with that.”

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