The nights are getting longer and there’s a chill in the air-- it’s time for everyone to bundle up against the cold when venturing outdoors. But for those who can’t afford to heat their homes adequately, that chill is inescapable and they need to bundle up indoors, too. In fact, households with low incomes spend an average of about $2,000 more than they can afford on energy costs every year. While many get some assistance through the state’s Seasonal Fuel program, what happens when that’s not enough? For low-income households facing a heating emergency, the Crisis Fuel program can be their lifeline. And, as of November 27, that lifeline is available to those who qualify.
“Depending on how cold the winter is, anywhere from 800 – 1,600 households may need Crisis Fuel assistance in Windham and Windsor Counties,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program. “We do our best to make sure no one in need has to go without heat.” SEVCA can also arrange an emergency furnace repair or replacement for homeowners whose furnaces stop working or become unsafe to operate.
To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have had extenuating circumstances that led to the heating emergency and income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is based on household size; e.g., $4,100/month (gross) for a family of four. Most households must first apply for and receive Seasonal Fuel assistance before they can be considered for Crisis Fuel. Only households between 185% and 200% of FPL are eligible for Crisis Fuel without having to apply for Seasonal Fuel assistance (since they don’t qualify for Seasonal Fuel). Burke urges all qualified households to apply as soon as possible for the Seasonal Fuel program, so that their application for Crisis Fuel, should they need it, is not delayed.
Generally, only one Crisis Fuel assist is provided per household receiving Seasonal Fuel assistance per year (two assists for those who don’t qualify). For more information, call SEVCA toll-free at (800) 464-9951 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. Crisis Fuel Assistance is available from November 27 until sometime in early April.
To help bridge the gap between what is covered by the state’s Crisis Fuel program and what is needed by a particular family in crisis, SEVCA raises money through grants and donations. To help keep low-income families warm this winter, individuals may donate to our “Share the Warmth” fund online at http://www.sevca.org/share-the-warmth. Checks may also be sent to 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT 05158.
WHO DO I CALL FOR HELP WITH A HEATING EMERGENCY?
Northern Windham County: (800) 464-9951 (toll-free)
Brattleboro area: (802) 254-2795
Springfield area: (802) 885-6153
White River Junction area: (802) 295-5215.
Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays ONLY: 1-866-331-7741,
Furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies: 1-877-295-7998.
To apply for Seasonal Fuel, apply online at www.mybenefits.vt.gov or call (800) 479-6151.