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Maine LIHEAP program flush with funding, but challenges remain for those who need help

Heating Fuel
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 photo, Paul Dorion, a driver for the Downeast Energy, prepares to deliver heating oil to a home in Portland, Maine.

With a cold snap upon us and fuel prices rising, some vulnerable Mainers are worried about financing their fuel bills. An extra $55 million dollars from the federal government's American Rescue Plan is coming to Maine, and those in charge of disbursing low income heating assistance say there is no reason for any resident to be cold this winter.

The number of applications for Maine's Low Income Home Energy Assistance is growing rapidly. But the biggest challenge isn't funding, it's getting an appointment. Some Community Action Programs who distribute the aid are short-staffed and the paperwork to qualify takes time. Megan Hannan, executive director of the Maine Community Action Partnership, said anyone who needs help should apply.

"For people saying, 'Oh my goodness, I need to apply for this', there will be a bit of a wait because of paperwork," Hannan said. "But we have plenty of money and they should apply."

Hannan said last year's LIHEAP recipients will receive a benefit of between $600 and $900 dollars this year. She said new applicants will need to qualify based on their income, but if they don't qualify for LIHEAP there are other assistance programs available, and anyone in need should call their local Community Action Program for help.

Carol Bousquet