ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Maine Community Foundation, through two funds it maintains, has donated almost $30,000 to a nonprofit program that helps people in eastern coastal Maine stay warm in the winter.
The Heating and Warmth Fund is a Washington Hancock Community Agency program for people in Hancock and Washington counties who have difficulty paying their home energy costs, WHCA officials indicated last week in a press release. The Belvedere Charitable Grantmaking Fund recently donated $20,000 to The Heating and Warmth Fund program, THAW, and the Pinetree Fund gave another $9,000 for Washington County residents. Both funds are administered by Maine Community Foundation.
The THAW program is designed to supplement the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP. WHCA started the THAW fund program in 2006, when heating costs rose sharply but federal funding for LIHEAP did not.
More than 6,000 people received LIHEAP assistance through the agency last winter, but some people who need help may not qualify for federal assistance or may have exhausted all available options, according to WHCA officials. Sometimes people who lose their jobs due to plant closures or layoffs do not qualify for federal heating assistance but still need help paying their fuel bills, the press release indicated.
Unlike LIHEAP funds, THAW program funds can be used to help with furnace repairs, utility bills and service reconnections, according to agency officials who said “the THAW fund helps meet the gap left by other funding sources.”
Last winter and spring, the THAW fund provided nearly $100,000 in heating and utility assistance to more than 1,100 people in need.
“That’s the equivalent of a small town in Maine,” agency officials said in the release.
Of those, many had their electric service discontinued last spring. Maine law prohibits disconnections in winter due to lack of payment, officials said, so many people with limited funds spent their money on other pressing needs such as heating fuel rather than on their electric bills.
WHCA works with other community service agencies such as municipalities, nonprofits, churches and other faith-based organizations to assist people and families who are running out of fuel or whose fuel service might be discontinued.
More information, including how to donate to the THAW fund, is available at the Washington Hancock Community Agency website, www.whcacap.org.