As the Outer Cape braces for winter’s heating bills, it’s also the season for finding help paying those bills.
Nov. 1 marked the beginning of the heating season for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that pays a portion of applicants’ winter heating bills based on household income.
“It’s a lifeline,” said Chris Hottle, director of the Provincetown Council on Aging, which helps people fill out the LIHEAP application. It doesn’t completely cover heating costs, she said, but it’s “absolutely helpful.”
The program is available for people whose household income is below 60 percent of the state’s median annual income. This year, that threshold number is $59,359 for a family of two and $87,294 for a family of four. A full list of maximum income levels can be found at the state’s Dept. of Energy Resources website.
The LIHEAP money is paid directly to a resident’s energy provider. Both homeowners and tenants can apply. And if utilities and heat are included in your rent, you can still get help if you meet the income threshold.
For homeowners and most tenants, LIHEAP will provide between $430 and $600 for the winter, which could cover a couple of months’ worth of heat, although for people living in subsidized housing the range is lower.
National Grid estimates that this year’s typical residential electricity customer will pay approximately $213 for 600 kWh, the average monthly electricity consumption for a Massachusetts household. That’s a 27 percent decrease from last year’s heating season, which was characterized by very high electricity costs.
People with gas heat can expect to pay $263 for the average consumption of 111 therms per month. That’s a 3 percent increase over last winter.
Hottle said that needing LIHEAP assistance is “not uncommon” on the Outer Cape. The median household income, averaged across the four towns, is $80,151.
Hottle also recommended that residents sign up for a free home energy assessment from the nonprofit Cape Light Compact. The organization will send an inspector to your home to assess its energy consumption and curate an energy report that may include HVAC, hot water heating, and appliance upgrade recommendations. The organization can provide free air-sealing work and free low-flow showerheads, advanced power strips, and faucet aerators to save on energy costs, as well as discounts on installation improvements.
Cape Light Compact’s assessments are “something for people of any income,” Hottle said.
For homeowners and tenants who meet LIHEAP eligibility, the Mass. Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities also offers a weatherization assistance program. This helps with measures such as air sealing and insulation improvements that can save on energy costs. An average of $4,725 is available in energy efficiency improvements for eligible households.