WESTMINSTER—This winter has seen some extended cold snaps and spikes in the price of fuel, and many households with low income are at the point where they no longer have resources to keep the heat on.
According to Southeastern Vermont Community Action, heating/energy costs for households with low income average about $2,000 more than they can afford every year. Most households eligible for Seasonal Fuel Assistance have used up their benefit and many have come to SEVCA for Crisis Fuel Assistance, which in most cases is limited to one assist.
SEVCA says it is seeing many desperate families who still need emergency fuel assistance, but don’t qualify for a second assist.
Fortunately, the state has now provided additional funding to provide further assistance this winter for some of the most vulnerable families — those whose income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and including households with a disabled or elderly member, a young child, or a compelling situation, such as a death in the family, illness, or an unanticipated expense causing extenuating circumstances.
“Staff members have recently been reporting a large increase in households who have exhausted their fuel benefit and simply don’t have the funds to continue to heat their homes,” said Pat Burke, director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program, which provides Crisis Fuel Assistance. “We’re thrilled that more local residents in need will now have the opportunity for a second Crisis Fuel assist.”
The Crisis Fuel program is available through the second week in April for those facing a heating emergency.
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 FPL, which is based on household size; e.g., $4,184/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, which SEVCA can assist with. 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.
Households facing a heating emergency that does not fit the criteria for the Crisis Fuel program should still contact SEVCA, as there may be other funds raised from private sources that can be used to help them.
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; 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, and provide information about their fuel dealer. Crisis Fuel Assistance is available until the second Friday in April (or until funding is depleted).
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.