WESTMINSTER—The nights are getting longer, and there’s a chill in the air. For those who can’t afford to heat their homes adequately, that chill is inescapable.
According to a news release from Southeastern Vermont Community Action, households with low incomes spend an average of about $2,000 more than they can afford on energy costs every year.
While many get some assistance through the state’s Seasonal Fuel program, what happens when that isn’t enough?
For low-income households facing a heating emergency, SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel program can be a lifeline. And that lifeline is once again available to those who qualify.
“Depending on how cold the winter is, anywhere from 800 to 1,600 households may need Crisis Fuel assistance in Windham and Windsor counties,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program, which provides Crisis Fuel assistance. “We do our best to make sure no one in need has to go without heat.”
SEVCA may also be able to arrange an emergency furnace repair or replacement for qualified homeowners whose furnaces stop working or become unsafe to operate.
To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have had extenuating circumstances that led to the heating emergency (defined as being very close to being out of fuel or out of fuel without money to buy more), and income at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which is based on household size; e.g., $4,100/month (gross) for a family of four.
Most households must first apply for and receive Seasonal Fuel assistance before they can be considered for Crisis Fuel. Only households between 185 and 200 percent of FPL are eligible for Crisis Fuel without having to apply for Seasonal Fuel assistance (since they don’t qualify for Seasonal Fuel).
Burke urges all qualified households to apply as soon as possible for the Seasonal Fuel program, so that their application for Crisis Fuel, should they need it, is not delayed. They should also not wait until they are completely out of fuel, as it takes a couple of days to arrange a fuel delivery and there are no funds provided to cover the fee for a special delivery.
Generally, only one Crisis Fuel assist is provided per household receiving Seasonal Fuel assistance per year (two assists for those who don’t qualify).
For more information, call SEVCA toll-free at 800-464-9951 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Applicants in northern Windham County may also call that number to schedule an appointment. Brattleboro area applicants should call 802-254-2795, and Springfield area applicants, 802-885-6153.
Applicants must bring pay stubs or other proof of income, know how much fuel is left in their tank (if oil heat), and provide information about their fuel dealer.
For Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays only, call 866-331-7741, and for furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies, call 877-295-7998. Crisis Fuel Assistance is available until the second Friday in April.