New Bedford, MA – October 27, 2023 – Today, MASSCAP, PACE Inc., along with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), the network of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Energy Directors Association (MEDA), launched its annual statewide awareness campaign to ensure that vulnerable Massachusetts households are able to stay safe, warm and healthy this winter. Households of all kinds may be eligible for help with their home winter heating bills, no matter the energy source.
Applications for home energy assistance are currently being accepted online, and income-eligible households may receive help from November 1, 2023 through April 30, 2024. Both renters and homeowners are eligible for assistance.
Applying is easy with the ability to apply online directly to the agency serving your town. The website www.heatinghelpMA.org (connected to the MASSCAP website) provides information for those in need of heating assistance as well as energy efficiency program information and a link to the online application portal, www.toapply.org/MassLIHEAP.
The awareness campaign will include local outreach, television and social media advertising. The campaign started today with a kickoff event at PACE, Inc. office in New Bedford that was also streamed on the New Bedford Guide Facebook Page and shared on MASSCAP Facebook page.
Joe Diamond, Executive Director, MASSCAP explained, “The goals that we pursue have everything to do with helping our vulnerable friends and neighbors living with low incomes to become economically stable and mobile. The Home Energy Assistance Program is a comprehensive approach to helping so many households across the Commonwealth heat their homes safely and efficiently.” Diamond continued, “We update our legislators every year and we are grateful for their support including resources to help vulnerable households this coming winter. We look forward to continuing the conversation with our legislators about the possibility of a state line item for fuel assistance.”
“ Home energy assistance is offered through the federal program (LIHEAP) that helps households making less than 60% of state median income to address home energy costs. In Massachusetts, the program is administered by EOHLC in partnership with community-based organizations, CAAs, and the City of Cambridge. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on several factors, including household size and combined gross annual income of residents 18 and older. The program provides assistance for all sources of heat, including oil, electricity, natural gas, propane, kerosene, wood and coal. For example, a family of four, making up to $87,294 would be eligible for help.
Through related programs available through the same application there are home energy efficiency opportunities that provide not only payment relief and utility discounts, but also life-saving emergency heating repair and replacement and stabilizing, full scale energy efficiency measures. These holistic programs allow both renters and homeowners to spend a smaller percentage of their income to meet their energy costs.
“No family should have to make a decision between being able to keep their house warm or choosing to provide food and shelter for their children. LIHEAP has helped hundreds of thousands of families in Massachusetts and as it begins to get cold outside once again, we are reminded how crucial the program is,” Senator Elizabeth Warren told us.
Senator Edward Markey told us, “We will keep fighting for bigger, bolder LIHEAP investments so that households in every corner of our Commonwealth aren’t forced to choose between chills and bills.”
Jon Mitchell, Mayor of New Bedford, reminded us that last year was one of the warmest winters on record and yet PACE still served almost 11,000 homes in the greater New Beford area. “That is about as low as it gets…in other words there is a lot of need out there. This program really does fit into that category of services that is about the basics. We create opportunity in our city, in our region, in our country, if we can provide those in need with the basics. A roof over your head only does you so much good if you are freezing.”
Representative Antonio Cabral talked about the great need in the community. He told us, “This program makes a difference for many families so they can spend on other things, put food on the table…” He talked about how important it is for people to be able to live in dignity, and again not to have to choose to pay for heat or food, etc.
Fran Stubs, Fuel Assistance Director at PACE Inc, reminded us how generous the income guidelines are and that you should always call to see if you are eligible. She told us what an honor it is to work with the PACE staff and serve the clients of New Bedford. She said, “We do it because we care. We do it because there are so many people that need the service. We treat people with respect and integrity at all times. Our slogan is ‘No one shall be left out in the cold’.”
The home energy assistance program is also a health and safety program. State Fire Marshal Jon Davine told us, “Home heating equipment is the main source of carbon monoxide and the second leading cause of residential fires in Massachusetts. Well-maintained heating equipment is much less likely to cause fire or carbon monoxide incidents. The program doesn’t just help save money, it also helps save lives.”
Eligibility guidelines (snapshot of guidelines below) can be found at www.heatinghelpma.org. It is important to note that eligibility is based on the last four weeks of gross income and that any additional stimulus funds or pandemic unemployment assistance funds do not count toward income.
|Household Size||Gross Annual Income||4 Week Gross Income
(if paid once per month)
|4 Week Gross Income
(if paid weekly or bi-weekly)
PACE Client Jeanne Costa spoke to us about her mother who was a proud woman who believed as long as you could work hard, you would not need assistance. Jeanne said, “People should know there isn’t any shame attached to obtaining a helping hand up, which should not be confused with a handout from programs like fuel assistance. We are very thankful to the fuel assistance program (and to Fran Stubbs and the PACE staff) for making my mom’s life a little bit more comfortable and allowing her to live in her home until the age of 101.”
The Massachusetts Association of Community Action’s 23 private, non-profit human service and advocacy organizations work to administer key anti-poverty programs in every city and town in the Commonwealth. These organizations serve approximately 600,000 low-income people annually, more than half of them with incomes below 125% of the federal poverty level.
For more than 50 years, Community Action Agencies have been on the front lines of addressing poverty — administering federal programs, federal community services and community development grants, and state funds. CAAs are economic engines in cities and towns across Massachusetts, providing communities with an annual infusion of over $1.2 million in total resources. CAAs generate at least twice that amount, helping clients become economically stable and mobile.
About the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities
The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) was established in 2023 to create more homes and lower housing costs in every region. EOHLC also distributes funding to municipalities, oversees the state-aided public housing portfolio, and operates the state’s EA family shelter.