Home heating aid

Pat Hughes fills an oil delivery truck at Clifford Oil in Lenox in January 2019. With energy prices rising, Berkshire Community Action Council is accepting applications for home heating assistance.

PITTSFIELD — It’s time again to apply for heating fuel assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered locally by the Berkshire Community Action Council.

But with higher fuel prices, the relief money will not stretch as far as it did least year.

According to Deborah Leonczyk, executive director of BCAC, nearly $6 million was allocated in the federal budget for heating assistance in Massachusetts.

Since the agency began accepting applications on Nov. 1, there have been 5,940 applicant households. Leonczyk said she expects about 8,000 Berkshire County applicants by the time the program ends on April 30.

“But we have a problem this year,” she said, noting that the cost of heating oil is up my more than $1 per gallon, with the cost running higher than $3 per gallon.

“As a result, we have 13 clients who have already used up their whole allocation for the year,” Leonczyk said. “And for folks who have $200 or less in their allotment, they can’t order more oil because the dealers won’t deliver less than 100 gallons per trip.”

She noted that state officials are working to alleviate that bottleneck, with no results as of now.

LIHEAP money helps with the cost of oil, natural gas, propane, coal, pellets, wood, electric and kerosene.

To qualify, annual income for a household with one person cannot exceed $40,951. For a family of four, household income could not exceed $78,751.

Depending on household income, LIHEAP can provide up to $1,030 in fuel assistance for those whose income is lower on the scale. For those at the top of the scale, the amount of aid would be $618 for the winter. Those living in rent subsidized housing would receive less.

Leonczyk noted that many families whose income exceeds that limit, still have trouble paying their heating bill. In that case, she said, there are options for help, and anyone facing that issue should contact BCAC to see what aid might be available.

“The money won’t run out,” she said. “We never turn down requests for additional funds, so if folks need it they should contact us.”

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-4622.