Fuel Assistance program offers increased benefits

Benefit levels are increased this year for a Fuel Assistance program run by the South Shore Community Action Council (SSCAC). The program provides low-income households with help paying home heating bills, according to a press release.

The Fuel Assistance program may be used to pay for oil, natural gas, electricity, propane, kerosene, wood or coal. Typically the program runs from November 1 through April 30.

For households with delivered fuel, benefit levels have been increased by $350 for all income categories up to 60 percent of state median income. Benefit levels now range from $725 to $1,025 for the heating season, based on income.

For households whose utilities and heat are included in their rent, benefit levels range from $215 to $525 for the heating season, based on income.

Eligibility is based on gross income and household size. For example, for a household of one person, the maximum allowed income is $31,218; two people, $40,284; three people, $50,429; and four people, $60,035.

Eligibility for fuel assistance may also provide 12 months of discounts on electric, natural gas, and telephone bills, as well as free weatherization and heating system repair.

Applications will be accepted through April 30, 2012.

Applicants age 60 and older may submit an application by appointment with their local Councils on Aging (COA): Edgartown, 508-627-4368; Oak Bluffs, 508-693-4509; Tisbury, 508-696-4205; Up-Island, 508-693-2896; and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), 508-645-9265.

Applicants under age 60 may schedule an appointment to fill out an application with Susan Von Steiger at the Oak Bluffs COA.

New applicants must bring proof of income for the past 30 days for all household members over 18, photo identification, and proof of street address. Households who have used the same primary heat source for at least 12 months should bring copies of their heating bills for the 12 months prior to applying, which may result in a higher Fuel Assistance benefit level.

Applicants who are completely out of fuel or whose utilities have been cut off must supply all income and other information and documentation at the time of application in order to receive emergency assistance.

Additional information is available from the SSCAC by calling 1-877-383-5243 (toll-free) or online at sscac.org.