Finding the help you need to stay safe and warm this winter season
With colder weather approaching, Spectrum Generations is in full swing helping older and disabled adults in central Maine get the assistance they need to stay warm and safe this winter.
Many Mainers fear that they may have to go without heat and electricity during these cold months. Luckily, Maine laws offer protection against utility disconnection during the winter months to help those struggling to pay for their electric bills. Between November 15th and April 15th your utility provider must work with you to try and make your payments affordable to avoid disconnection of service. Regardless of the time of year, if you or someone in your household is seriously ill or is experiencing a disability, you might also be able to get some relief if you are behind on your utility bills. Central Maine Power also has an Electricity Lifeline Program to give you credit on your bill for up to 12 months – call 1-800-750-4000 to apply. To learn more about your rights, call the Maine Equal Justice Partners toll free at 1-866-626-7059, or the Maine Office of the Public Advocate at 207-287-2445.
The Attorney General(AG) office also reminds us that the Consumer Protection Rights start October 15 through April 30. Some of these rights include fuel dealers not being allowed to charge additional fees to a consumer, although some exceptions do apply. If a customer has money for a fuel delivery, they cannot be denied a delivery between October 15 and April 30 even if the customer owes money. A fuel dealer cannot refuse a delivery if; the customer has a guaranteed payment for the delivery (cash, LiHeap, etc.); the dealer regularly serves that area; and the customer requests at least 20 gallons. A dealer may charge an emergency delivery fee if the customer is told in advance of the fee. Call the AG office to learn more about your rights 1.800.436.2131.
Another Maine program that can help you with your fuel bill is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHeap). This program is run by Maine’s local Community Action Programs and has received about 34 million dollars for this season. Some of the ten Community Action Agencies across Maine are already scheduling appointments into February, so please call 645-3764 ext. 5114 to find the local Community Action Program nearest to you to make an appointment if you need help with your fuel bill. They presently have an emergency fund available, and hope to receive a second round of funding towards mid-winter. Presently this program will not help with natural gas heating.
Please do not hesitate to call Spectrum Generations helpline at 1-800-639-1553 Monday thru Friday from 8am to 4:30pm for more information on any of these assistance programs. Our Aging and Disability Resource Counselors can also assist you with applying for the Medicare money saving program. This program allows you to keep the Medicare Part B premium that is taken out of your Social Security, giving you almost $105 more a month to help with paying other bills.
Other resources for assistance may be found at your local town offices and the Salvation Army. Also, check with your local United Way and town offices for warming center locations in case you lose your heat.
Spectrum Generations is also helping to keep seniors warm this winter through the Coats for Seniors Project. Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging collected gently used coats which were collected by LL Bean, cleaned and distributed to Goodwill stores. If you are in need of a warm winter coat, Spectrum Generations can provide you with a voucher to pick out a coat at any local Goodwill store. Call 1-877-353-3771 statewide to be connected to the Area Agency on Agency in your area to learn how you can obtain a voucher, while supplies last.