Unitil Corporation, (unitil.com), a provider of natural gas and electricity to customers throughout New England, is urging customers to be aware of fuel assistance programs available to assist with heating costs as winter approaches.
That was the message shared with nonprofit and community leaders who participated in a virtual heating assistance forum sponsored by Unitil and co-hosted with United Way of North Central Massachusetts in partnership with New England Farm Workers’ Council.
We recognize that this will be a particularly challenging year, so we want our customers to take advantage of these programs that will help their overall energy usage and cost. Our customer service team is standing by to review these programs."
Alec O'Meara, Media Relations Manager
Norma Alvarez from New England Farm Workers’ Council, which manages the Federal Fuel Assistance program, said a family of four with a household income of $78,751 or less would qualify for the program. For a single person, the income figure is $40,951.
According to Alvarez, residents should apply for this program as soon as possible and not wait until financial difficulties arise before seeking assistance. It was also noted that the Fitchburg office is closed due to the virus, but is taking new applications by telephone. Residents can learn more about qualification guidelines for fuel assistance by reaching out to New England Farm Workers’ Council in Fitchburg at (978) 342-4520.
Unitil Credit Supervisor Sue Corson reviewed with the attendees the utility company’s budget billing program, which makes monthly utility bills more affordable by leveling out higher seasonal energy bills, which are spread out throughout the year.
In addition, customers may qualify for a discount rate on natural gas or electricity, depending on household size and income. According to Corson, the discount rate for electric customers is 34.5 while the natural gas discount remains at 25 percent. Unitil works with the New England Farm Workers’ Council to approve customers for the discount rate as well as other agencies that provide public benefits.
Customers who qualify for the discount rate may also qualify for the Arrears Forgiveness Program. If the customer has an overdue balance of $300, 60 or more days past due for their gas and/or electric service and enter into an agreement to pay their current utility budgeted bills on time, they may be eligible for $4,800 in relief per service, per year on their outstanding balances.
“We recognize that this will be a particularly challenging year, so we want our customers to take advantage of these programs that will help their overall energy usage and cost,”Unitil Media Relations Manager Alec O’Meara said. “Our customer service team is standing by to review these programs.”
Unitil’s Derek Kimball reviewed Mass Save’s energy efficiency programs, including income-based programs that provide no-cost or discounted energy efficiency services.
The Enhanced Residential Program, for those with a household of four members and incomes between $78,752 and $105,001, offers no-cost insulation upgrade and rebates on related projects.
The Income Eligible Program is for a household with four members whose income is less than $78,751 or for a single person less than $40,950. Applicants may qualify for no-cost insulation, replacement of heating systems, air-sealing upgrades and new home appliances such as clothes washers, refrigerators, freezers, heating systems, dehumidifiers and window AC units.
Kimball encouraged residents to contact MassSave at 1-866-537–SAVE (7267) to complete the easy, no cost income verification by phone and learn more about the Enhanced Residential Program or Making Opportunity Count, Inc. in Fitchburg for more information on qualifying for the Income Eligible Program.
United Way of North Central Massachusetts, told listeners about its Emergency Shelter Program, which provides emergency shelter to homeless people during extreme weather conditions. The initiative is managed by United Way, with its community partners, and funded by the Ronald M. Ansin Foundation and the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. For more information, local agencies can call the United Way of North Central Massachusetts at 978-345-1577 x304.
To learn more about any of Unitil’s programs, customers may call 1-888-301-7700.