December 11, 2015—Fuel funds across the U.S. are firing up their programs as the mercury drops this season. The Good Neighbor Energy Fund (GNEF) in Massachusetts recently announced that its “Give the Gift of Warmth” campaign generated just under $600,000 in contributions for the 2014-2015 year. Donations to the campaign come as a result of a cooperative effort between energy companies in the state and their customers through various matching and giving programs throughout the winter heating season. With these donations, the Good Neighbor Energy Fund was able to provide assistance benefits, up to $300, directly to the utility bills of 1, 478 households in the state of Massachusetts. It hopes to replicate this success when the program begins in January 2016
The fuel fund's benefits are aimed toward households whose income falls above LIHEAP's cut off, but are still considered a part of the “working poor.” The program is administered by the Salvation Army and helps customers whose income falls between 60 and 80 percent of the state's median income levels. Eligibility for Massachusetts LIHEAP is capped at 60 percent of state median income.
Similar to the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, Atmos Energy's Share the Warmth fund in Tennessee uses contributions and matching funds to assist vulnerable, low-income customers. Donations are gathered through customers who round-up their gas bills to the nearest dollar. Last year that extra money assisted nearly 10,000 customers with their natural gas bills. As it enters the current heating season, the company is reminding customers that, if every customer rounded up their bill, Share the Warmth could assist 90,000 customers in need.
Merchants Bank of Vermont takes a different approach to raising assistance funds. Once again this year, it has challenged interested parties to contribute funds to the WARMTH program. For each contribution, Merchants Bank will make a matching dollar-for-dollar contribution, up to $40,000. The funds are administered by the state's five community action agencies. Utility companies such as Green Mountain Power also contribute matching funds to the program. All contributions made to the WARMTH program go directly to the fuel suppliers. Administrative costs are funded by participating fuel dealers and utilities. Last year the program assisted 3,600 households across the state with up to three separate $75 assistance payments made per household as a part of a repayment plan made with the household's utility company.
Sources: Media Reports, LIHEAP Clearinghouse, Good Neighbor Energy Fund, Atmos Energy, Champlain Office of Economic Opportunity