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Residents invited to apply for heating assistance

by | Nov 21, 2022 | News

The South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) is accepting applications for this year’s Heating and Fuel Assistance Program. The program pays a portion of the cost of one’s primary source of heat — including wood, pellets, gas, oil, kerosene, propane, coal and oil — for the winter season, which runs Nov. 1 to April 30.

The Outreach Office at the Hopkinton Senior Center serves as an intake site for the program and processes fuel assistance applications. Kimberly Carson, the outreach coordinator, wants residents of all ages to know they are there to help.

“We want to make people aware that Outreach exists! Our office is at the Senior Center, but for fuel assistance, we help everyone in town,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what age you are; you don’t have to be a senior, and you don’t have to be a participant at the center.”

Eligibility for fuel assistance is based on gross annual income and family size. Income guidelines are available on the SMOC website and, said Carson, are higher than what many might expect.

“A family of five, for instance, may have a gross income up to $94,610 and still qualify for assistance,” she explained. “Also, some residents assume they can’t apply if they have money in a savings account, but this doesn’t necessarily disqualify one from fuel assistance; only interest earned from a savings account would be considered income.”

Carson noted additional benefits to the program: People who receive fuel assistance will receive a discount on their electric bill and, at the end of the season, SMOC will distribute any remaining program funds into recipients’ electric accounts.

Applications continue to be accepted throughout the duration of the season, but Carson advises that people apply early to allow time for processing, and to call the Outreach Office immediately if they are facing financial struggles or have received a shutoff notice. While there is a seasonal moratorium against utility shutoff after Nov. 15, “That doesn’t help people who use oil or propane,” Carson lamented.

Generally, required documentation includes photo identification (e.g., driver’s license) for the head of household or primary applicant; a list of all household members; information on heating bills (heating company name and account number); information on housing status (such as an active lease or mortgage statement); and proof of income for 30 days prior to application date (wages, pension, etc.).

Carson is eager to spread the word that Outreach can help with other situations as well. She noted that there are various sources of assistance in the local community; for instance, SMOC also offers things like weatherization programs and even appliance repair. But, she said, “People often aren’t aware of what’s available to them.” The Outreach Office can help residents identify and apply for services that meet their unique needs and circumstances.

Carson understands resources can be hard to find, and trying to mine through mountains of information can be daunting — particularly for someone already stressed out and worrying about finances … and that, she said, is what the Outreach Office is there for.

“Outreach is here to help,” she assured. “We can advise and guide you; we can prescreen; we can help navigate the system and uncover resources for things like food security, water, transportation. It’s helpful to have someone who can review your individual situation and has enough knowledge of what’s available to figure out, ‘Here’s what can be done.’ ”

Residents wishing to help keep their neighbors warm this winter can mail donations to SMOC Fuel Assistance Program, 7 Bishop Street, Framingham MA 01702-8313.

Information, eligibility requirements and downloadable forms for the Heat and Fuel Assistance Program can be found on the SMOC website at smoc.org. To reach the Outreach Office at the Hopkinton Senior Center, call 508-497-9730.

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