WESTFIELD – The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which is administered by the Salvation Army, began this week to offer fuel assistance for the winter season. The fund is paid for by energy companies from across Massachusetts and helps families impacted by a temporary crisis, like COVID-19, who don’t qualify for federal or state assistance through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) with the payment of their home energy expenses.
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund is available to any Massachusetts resident who, because of temporary financial difficulty, cannot meet a month’s energy expense and is not eligible for state or federal energy assistance. Income must fall between 60 and 80 percent of the state’s median income levels.
Income levels for qualification in the program are $39,106 to $52,150 for a one-person house; $51,138 to $68,133 for a two-person household; and for a four-person household, $75,202 to $100,268. The income range for other sized households are listed on the website at www.magoodneighbor.org.
Eligible Westfield and Southwick residents may call 413-977-8759 to apply for assistance; however, that number, which is not listed on the website, is not available until after Jan. 19. Before Jan. 19, the Westfield message instructs residents to call the statewide number at 339-502-5900.
Residents below that income range who need fuel assistance may contact the Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) to see if they qualify for the LIHEAP program. 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 Valley Opportunity Council Executive Director Steve Huntley earlier in the winter. The LIHEAP program opened on Nov. 1.
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.
The LIHEAP program pays a portion of winter heating bills for eligible households challenged by the high cost of home heating fuel 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.