Home » As cold sets in and bills rise, heating assistance efforts gaining steam

As cold sets in and bills rise, heating assistance efforts gaining steam

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Individuals, nonprofits, and elected officials are vying to help Midcoast residents struggling to cover their heating bills this winter.

Retired Brunswick business owner Michael Strange said of the cold: “A lot of people … heat up or eat. You don’t do both.

Strange hopes to set up a nonprofit timber bank in Brunswick to provide low-income residents with free firewood to heat their homes.

he was Inspired by the woodchuckis a volunteer group in the Boothbay area that has been collecting, chopping and seasoning firewood for neighbors in need for 15 years.

As with similar programs elsewhere in the state, woodchucks have grown in recent years as energy prices have risen. Last year, the group collected more than 55 cords of donated wood (worth nearly $20,000, according to the governor’s Office of Energy) to serve approximately 35 local households.

“We don’t want anyone to catch a cold,” said Woodchuck leader Billy Smith. “We see too much of that in this world.”

Maine-wide kerosene prices averaged $4.53 as of December 19, according to the governor’s Office of Energy. The figure represents a drop from his $5.70+ price recorded in May and November, but still unchanged. 44% higher than the average kerosene price a year ago 144% higher than December 2020 price.

Supporters are lobbying lawmakers for help as high heating costs can have deadly consequences.

“The fear of both navigating and possibly surviving this year’s heating season is part of almost every interaction we have,” said Deb Keller, Executive Director of Bath Housing, in a testimony filed. I read Congress ahead of last week’s hearings“Homeowners who are sure many seniors will freeze to death in their homes this winter, homeowners who have already run out of fuel and don’t know where to turn, and concerns about rising fixed fuel costs. We meet homeowners who are panicking about possible income, homeowners who already have heating subsidies but find themselves unable to cover the rest of their expenses this year, and this Homeowners who have never accessed a utility of any kind until now, but know they will need to find some help just to make it happen through this heating season.

Last week, the Emergency Heating Bill LD 3, which provides eligible taxpayers with a $450 check, $50 million for the Heating Program and $21 million for the Emergency Housing and Shelter Program, was passed by a committee in Augusta, and Congress passed it. We have set a bill that is likely to be passed when we return to session. in January.

If another bill, proposed by Brunswick town councilor and Maine Rep. Dan Ankeles, is passed, the town will use funds spent to provide additional heating and housing assistance to residents in need this winter. You will be able to seek reimbursement from any state.

“The town shouldn’t be punished for doing the morally right thing,” Ankeres said. “They are often the front line of last resort for people.

Staff in the town of Brunswick are now working with local groups to fund the extension of time. The Gathering Place, a warm space for all who need itthe Director of Economic Development reported at the town council last week.

However, Strange said liability and insurance issues prevented the town from providing him with space for the lumber bank he proposed. He can’t launch a nonprofit until he secures a solid surface.

After a month of unsuccessful attempts to find a location, Strange is losing hope of being able to run the program in time to help residents this winter. Still, he promised he was just warming up.

“I’m not giving up,” Strange says, seeking out tips from individuals and companies looking to partner with him. “It would be pretty easy to just walk away, but I don’t think that’s right.”

Michael Strange can be reached at (207) 751-7196.

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