Local Agencies Helping Mainers Feeling Pressure Paying For Fuel 

Staying warm in freezing temperatures is vital, but finding the money to pay for oil is sometimes impossible.”This year is especially bad. I think two things have an impact on that. First of all, heating oil prices are well over $3 a gallon. In addition, there have been severe cuts, both last year and the year before in federal assistance to low, moderate income families and to seniors. When you add the two together, it almost spells disaster,” said Untied Way of Eastern Maine President and CEO, John Kuropchak.That’s led to an increase in those seeking financial assistance.”We’re seeing more and more people, first time people that are reaching out to 211, which is our arm that answers questions concerning heating oil and other assistance,” said Kuropchak.At Penquis Cap. LIHEAP Division Manager Barbara Stone has a busy job.”Very busy. To date, we’ve taken over ten thousand applications and we’ve served about half of them, spending over 3.5 million dollars, at this point,” said Stone.She says it’s a struggle for those applying for the first time.”They’re frustrated: they don’t even want to do it. They come in and they’re like, ‘I don’t even want to be here,’ but you know it’s like, you’re eligible just like the next person. You lost your job. You should be applying for assistance,” said Stone.Both of these agencies are constantly looking for solutions.”The short term fixes are putting more oil in the tank, going to a warming center for a few hours, so you can cut back on your heat for a few hours during that time of day. There are also long term fixes: winterization, weatherization, putting plastic on windows, doing new weather stripping around doors to bring down the actual cost and consumption,” said Kuropchak.They can also look at your personal budget.”We have a program called financial coaching which will help individuals budget for, and prepare for these spikes in heating costs,” said Kuropchak.The United Way is also putting together lightning grants and are looking for area programs to apply for the funding.You can call them at 941-2800.They are also urging anyone who needs assistance to call 211 or log