January 10

Augusta area heating assistance struggling to meet rising demand

A group of local leaders who meet monthly to talk about how to help low-income residents stay warm say the last few weeks have been made difficult as fuel and money is delayed.

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

HOT AND COLD: Angie Anderson, right, and her partner, Dan Chapman, center, talk with customer Scott Stairs of Randolph about delivering heating oil to his home Thursday at Chapman Oil in Gardiner. The heating oil business the couple operates receives several requests a day to drop only minimum amounts of oil to keep houses from freezing. Heating oil on Thursday cost $3.79 and $3.89 a gallon.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

HOT AND COLD: Angie Anderson collects her thoughts Thursday while listening to a customer request heating oil at Chapman Oil Company in Gardiner. The firm that delivers home heating fuel receives several requests a day to drop only a minimal amount of oil to keep houses from freezing. Heating oil on Thursday cost $3.79 and $3.89 a gallon.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Dan Chapman and his partner Angie Anderson, who operate Chapman Oil Company in Gardiner, did not attend Friday’s meeting, but said Thursday the business gets several requests a day to deliver only a minimal amount of oil to keep houses from freezing.

However, officials said that will likely result in even more demand for oil deliveries, because customers who only get a minimal amount will run out of oil, and need more, sooner.

Group members said Friday Citizens Energy Joe for Oil program, which has previously provided fuel assistance, is not yet active.

Randall warned an online application purports to be for the program but isn’t. He said the application asks people to submit $30 with their application. Linda Ryan, credit manager for Augusta Fuel Company, said Joe for Oil applications, if and when the program becomes active, are done over the phone, not online.

Gordon said the Augusta Warming Center has been busy with the cold weather, with as many as 47 people coming to the shelter in downtown Augusta at 44 Front St.

“We’ve had families with young children in there every day,” Gordon said of the warming center, which is free and also has some winter clothing available for people who need it. “The warming center is probably more important this year than any year we’ve been doing it.”

LaChance said her agency only has funding to pay two employees to answer phone requests for fuel assistance, so callers seeking assistance or information should expect delays. She said some can be on hold for two hours. She said frustrated callers sometimes hang up and call the governor’s office or their legislators’ offices to complain and seek assistance, and officials from those offices then call KVCAP, seeking to speed up the process for that caller. LaChance said, however, that doesn’t get that caller to the head of the line and they still have to wait with others seeking assistance.

She said the agency has filled about 8,000 requests for assistance so far and has another 1,500 applications pending.

“We’re getting (emergency assistance) out the door as fast as we can,” she said.

Keith Edwards - 621-5647kedwards@centralmaine.com

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