Well before the official start of winter, Vermont has seen lower-than-average temperatures and an unseasonably early snowstorm, raising the prospect of another cold, harsh winter. With higher fuel prices this year, hundreds of area households will likely find it difficult or impossible to keep the heat on. 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 in Windham and Windsor Counties that are facing a heating emergency, SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel program can be their lifeline. And, as of November 26, that lifeline is once again available.
“When your fuel is down to a quarter tank or you are facing an electricity disconnection, call us and we’ll do our best to help,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program, which provides Crisis Fuel assistance. “But don’t wait until you completely run out of fuel, because it could take 5 – 7 days before a fuel delivery can be arranged, and the Crisis Fuel program cannot cover the fee for a special delivery (or fees for leak and pressure tests for empty propane tanks).”
To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have had extenuating circumstances that led to the heating emergency (defined as being very close to being out of fuel or out of fuel without money to buy more), and income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is based on household size; e.g., $4,184/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. 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). SEVCA may also be able to arrange an emergency furnace repair or replacement for qualified homeowners whose furnaces stop working or become unsafe to operate.
For more information, call SEVCA toll-free at (800) 464-9951 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. Applicants in northern Windham County may also call that number to schedule an appointment. Brattleboro area applicants should call (802) 254-2795; Springfield area applicants, (802) 885-6153; and White River Junction area applicants, (802) 295-5215. Applicants must bring paystubs or other proof of income, know how much fuel is left in their tank, and provide information about their fuel dealer. Crisis Fuel Assistance is available from November 26 until the second Friday in April.
For Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays ONLY, call 1-866-331-7741 (starting December 1), and for furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies (starting November 26), call 1-877-295-7998.
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.