Winter Relief Checks: Maine To Provide Families and Seniors With Emergency Heat Funds

Senior couple feeling cozy and warm, sitting covered with blanket on the sofa at home.
stefanamer / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Maine lawmakers know how cold it gets in the Pine Tree State, and also know how high the heating bills will run this winter amid record high energy prices. To help out, they have announced a pair of new programs to help Maine residents cope with winter heating bills.

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On Wednesday, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said it will provide one-time payments of $500 to about 13,000 qualifying senior households. The payments will be issued during the week of Dec. 12, 2022, to state residents 65 and older with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty line. Other requirements include having received a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit and having reported a heat expense in September 2022.

The $6.6 million program will be paid for with existing state funds that promote the health and safety of seniors, who are at greater risk of illness due to inadequate warmth during the winter.

The $500 payments follow separate rounds of heating cost relief for eligible Maine families. In November, the DHHS provided payments of $1,000 each to nearly 15,000 households that participate in SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Parents as Scholars, or Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) with a $1,000 payment. A similar round of $800 heating relief payments were made to nearly 13,000 low-income families with children in March.

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In a separate announcement Wednesday, Maine Gov. Janet Mills unveiled the Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan, a package of short-term measures designed to ensure that low-income and middle-class Maine residents and families can stay warm and secure this winter. Under this plan, eligible Maine households would receive $450 checks to supplement their home heating and emergency fuel costs.

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“Inflation and high energy prices are stretching the wallets of Maine people, in some cases forcing them to face the impossible choice of heating their homes, putting food on the table, or paying for other necessities,” Mills said. “With this plan, we hope to ease the burden on Maine people by putting money back into their pockets so they can better afford these costs and by ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens are able to stay warm this winter.”

The proposal — which also calls for setting aside extra money for energy assistance and emergency housing programs — was to be considered by the full Maine Legislature on Wednesday, WABI-TV reported. A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the bill to go into effect immediately, allowing checks to be mailed next month.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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