Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) is taking their Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) “on the road” in the month of May with a program called “HEAP in Your Hometown.” The goal is to reach households in need of fuel assistance that have not yet applied for assistance this season, but are now finding themselves struggling to make ends meet, given the high cost of heating, energy and general inflation across the board.
ACAP’s HEAP program will do on-site applications with area residents at municipal offices in several communities – mostly very rural, and those where scheduled program appointments are not regularly held during the intake season. Walk-ins are welcome with no appointments required.
“Given all of the challenges County households are facing with high costs on just about everything these days, we wanted to make our program as accessible and helpful as possible,” said Shannon Hill, ACAP HEAP program manager. “We are receiving calls daily from households that, earlier in the season – prior to the jump in heating and electricity costs – hadn’t considered applying for assistance through our program, but are suddenly finding themselves under significant stress and uncertain how they will pay to heat their home.”
The “HEAP in Your Hometown” program will be in eight different communities in the southern, central and northern (St. John Valley) regions of Aroostook County on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout May. Unless otherwise specified, staff will be on-site at the town or municipal office in each community, noted below, for walk-in appointments between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day.
- Tuesday, May 3- Weston
- Wednesday, May 4- Merrill
- Tuesday, May 10- Stockholm
- Wednesday, May 11- Madawaska (held at ACAP’s Fox Street Office along with Ice Cream Social
- to celebrate ACAP’s 50th Anniversary and Community Action Month)
- Tuesday, May 17- Allagash
- Wednesday, May 18- Eagle Lake
- Tuesday, May 24- Limestone
- Wednesday, May 25- Ashland
ACAP is encouraging community members who can visit the location closest to them to do so, but is also inviting community members who are not able to go to the site or unable to participate on the date and times noted, to call the HEAP Program at the Agency at 207-768-3053 to apply over the phone.
Individuals going to the in-person “HEAP in Your Hometown” walk-in locations are encouraged to bring along the following documents to expedite the certification process for receiving assistance: Social Security cards for everyone in household except under 2 years, proof of household income, photo ID of applicant, most recent electric bill. Those not bringing the documents with them at the time of application should go ahead anyway and will have a limited amount of time to follow-up with the documents.
ACAP officials are strongly encouraging those who have never applied, or have not in many years, to consider doing so this year. Income eligibility guidelines have increased significantly in recent years.
For example, a two-person household can qualify for the program if their income is less than $38,172 annually. A household of four can qualify if they make less than $56,136. The income assessment does not include other assets, and is based solely on income. For households who exceed the annual income limit, but have experienced a recent hardship causing their household income to decrease, ACAP can calculate income based on the previous 30 days instead of the full year. Deductions for certain expenses, including out-of-pocket medical costs can also be factored in – so households falling just above the income guidelines are encouraged to apply as well. To see the full income eligibility guidelines go to: www.acap-me.org/programs/energyhousing.
As ACAP HEAP leader, Hill is encouraging community members to strongly consider applying. Even though the heating season is in its waning weeks, she shares that any benefit allocated to County households will go directly on their fuel vendor account as a credit, and will remain there until the benefit is fully exhausted or after 18 months – whichever comes first.
“This is really a great time of year to apply for HEAP. Not only will it provide some peace of mind during these challenging times, there is no waiting for an appointment, and you are really setting yourself up right to start the next heating season,” said Hill. “We also want to make certain that people understand that if they qualify to receive a HEAP benefit, they are not taking it away from someone else. There are funds available in the program for those who qualify, and we want to help people access this much needed support.”