Thousands in Berkshire County seeking relief from higher utility prices
Jan 08, 2023 12:30 am
Scott Stafford reports for The Berkshire Eagle that with higher utility prices and the general rate of inflation, more residents of western Massachusetts are looking for financial aid to pay for heat and power through the LIHEAP program administered in Berkshire County by the Berkshire Community Action Council. As of January 3, nearly 7,500 people had applied for the council's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, said program director Tammy Biagini. Of the 7,500 applicants, 4,991 were eligible for assistance. The number of new applicants doubled from last year, coming in at 1,060, so far. And the pace of applications has been brisk, Biagini said. “People are in panic mode,” she said. “They’re coming in like gangbusters.” The deadline to apply for energy assistance is April 30. The maximum benefit level, which applies to households at the poverty level, is $2,400. For those with higher income, the benefit shrinks. The program will pay to help with natural gas heat, electric heat, and deliverable fuels such as heating oil, kerosene, propane, firewood, coal and wood pellets. Those who qualify for the benefit received will cover roughly half of a household's winter fuel needs. “They are always grateful for the help,” Biagini said. “We get thank you letters in the mail and calls on the phone. That definitely makes our job a little easier.” Read more in The Berkshire Eagle.