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$450 relief checks will start going out to many Mainers this week

Oil Prices
Shawn Patrick Ouellette
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2009 file photo, Keith Franklin, a delivery driver for Cash Energy, drags the oil hose up a driveway for a home heating oil delivery in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

A state agency started mailing out the first wave of $450 energy relief checks to Maine residents on Monday.

Earlier this month, lawmakers approved a $473 million emergency funding bill that includes nearly $400 million for another round of direct payments to taxpayers.

The office of Gov. Janet Mills said Monday that the first batch of 5,000 checks were sent via the U.S. Postal Service on Monday and that Maine Revenue Services expects to issue roughly 200,000 checks weekly starting next week. All of the so-called "winter relief checks" are expected to arrive in eligible persons’ mailboxes by the end of March.

“With Maine people facing high energy costs, Governor Mills directed us to distribute the energy relief payments as quickly as possible, and I am pleased to say we have achieved our goal of beginning to send them before the end of January,” Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said in a statement. “We will continue to work hard to see that all the checks are sent out as quickly as possible.”

Nearly 900,000 Maine taxpayers are expected to automatically receive the payments which, like the $850 inflation relief checks issued last year, will be distributed via paper checks rather than direct deposit.

To be eligible, residents must have filed an income tax return for the 2021 tax year and have earned less than $100,000 as an individual, less than $150,000 as an individual filing as the head of household, or less than $200,000 for couples filing jointly. While the program has been touted as a way to help Mainers’ pay for heating and electricity costs, there are no restrictions on how the money can be used.

Heating fuel prices have been trending downward in recent weeks, although Maine is bracing for the coldest weather of the winter later this week. After hitting an average of $5.71 a gallon in mid-November, heating oil was averaging $4.44 a gallon statewide last week, according to figures compiled by the Governor’s Energy Office. A gallon of kerosene, which is used by many homeowners with outdoor fuel tanks, averaged $5.82 a gallon statewide last week compared to more than $7 a gallon in November.

For more information on the winter relief checks, go to www.maine.gov/governor/mills/energyrelief.