From the Berkshires to Boston, households struggling to pay their energy bills this winter can now access the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund.
The fund provides a $350 stipend to income-eligible individuals and families during the heating season. Organizers say they hope to dole out a total of $650,000 to more than 2,000 households across the state.
"Without assistance from the [fund], many of the people we serve wouldn't be able to make their monthly utility payments," said Maj. David E. Kelly, the divisional commander of the Massachusetts Salvation Army, which administers the fund.
Local residents can apply to the fund through the Salvation Army Corps on West Street in Pittsfield and River Street in North Adams.
The application process officially began Wednesday, according to Salvation Army officials.
"People start inquiring in September," said Maj. Ralph Hansen, commander of the North Adams Salvation Army Corps. "I expect the numbers will be higher this year. In fact, they get higher every year."
"Since the first of January, I have had six people ask about the fund," said Bea Turner, a social worker at the Pittsfield Salvation Army.
Turner said the Massachusetts Salvation Army headquarters in Canton processes the applications.
The energy assistance program is funded through Western Massachusetts Electric Co., National Grid, Berkshire Gas Co. and other participating utilities. Utility customers can donate to the fund when paying their monthly bill, online at www.magoodneighbor.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
Donors can also mail in a check payable to The Good Neighbor Energy Fund and mail it to The Salvation Army, 25 Shawmut Road, Canton, MA 02021.
The Good Neighbor Energy Fund has raised more than $18.3 million and assisted nearly 80,450 households with a month's energy expense since its inception in 1985.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.
Who qualifies ...
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund now accepting applications through the Salvation Army from state residents not eligible for state or federal energy assistance this winter.
Income eligibility guidelines for 2012-13 are as follows:
Household Size Total Gross Yearly Income
More information: www.magoodneighbor.org