WESTFIELD – Fuel Assistance is available for income-eligible families who are experiencing hardship and who may have difficulty in paying for heating this winter.
The Valley Opportunity Council (VOC), which administers the program annually in Hampden County, started taking applications over the phone on Nov. 1. In prior years, there was an office in Westfield at the Gas & Electric building, but this year the program will be fully remote due to COVID.
“We’re trying to get as many people as we can as early as we can before the weather gets cold. We’re trying to get everyone in a little earlier, because everything is more difficult with COVID,” said Executive Director Steve Huntley.
Applications may be made over the phone at 413-552-1548 during open hours Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Translation services are available.
Fuel Assistance, also known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), pay a portion of winter heating bills for eligible households challenged by the high cost of home heating fuel.
This program provides assistance through a fixed benefit amount for the cost of the primary source of heat, which includes, but is not limited to oil, electricity, natural gas, propane, kerosene, wood and coal. Huntley said if accepted into the program, VOC will provide a subsidy, order the fuel and pay the vendor directly.
Income eligibility for a one-person household is no more than $39,105 annually; for a two-person household, $51,137, and for a four-person household, the maximum income is $75,201. The full list for larger households is available at valleyopp.com. There may be other programs for families that do not meet the income eligibility.
Huntley said the Valley Opportunity Council helps 12,000 families annually in Hampden County with fuel assistance. He said they are starting the program this year with CARES Act funds, because the federal LIHEAP funding has not yet been allocated.
“It’s a very unusual year, so please be patient with us and please apply as early as you can. We understand a lot of people are having difficult financial times and we’re here for you,” Huntley said.