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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

New Fuel Assistance Guidelines

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, September 26, 2005

Chilly autumn days and winter’s icy bite are bearing down on the Berkshire region, and escalating vehicle and heating fuel costs are ravaging the household budgets of an increasing number of households.

The Berkshire Community Action Council Inc. offers heating fuel assistance through a low-income home energy assistance program, known as LIHEAP, which is funded with federal revenues. Heating assistance is paid as a fixed amount of money based on household income and size, and the funds are distributed directly to heating fuel vendors.

Fuel Assistance Applications Being Accepted

Fuel assistance applications are being accepted now. Those interested in seeking assistance may contact the BCAC office in Pittsfield at 413-445-4503, in North Adams at 413-663-3014 or in Great Barrington at 413-528-1947.

Those who reside in homes with rents that are subsidized [paid in part by government funds] or whose heat costs are included in their rental payments may be eligible for assistance under special provisions contained within the program guidelines.

LIHEAP may help families with annual gross incomes of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Homeowners and those who rent living space may be eligible for program benefits.

Income Guidelines

Maximum eligibility incomes for household size are listed below:

Family of 1 - $19,140 annual gross income

Family of 2 - $25,600 annual gross income

Family of 3 - $32,180 annual gross income

Family of 4 - $38,700 annual gross income

Family of 5 - $45,220 annual gross income

Family of 6 - $51,470 annual gross income

Family of 7 - $58,260 annual gross income

Family of 8 - $64,780 annual gross income

Family of 9 - $69,847 annual gross income

Family of 10 - $71,333 annual gross income

Family of 11 - $72,819 annual gross income

Family of 12 - $74,306 annual gross income

Family of 13 - $75,792 annual gross income

Family of 14 - $77,278 annual gross income

Family of 15 - $78,764 annual gross income

Family of 16 - $80,250 annual gross income

Family of 17 - $81,736 annual gross income

Family of 18 - $83,222 annual gross income

Family of 19 - $84,708 annual gross income

Family of 20 - $86,194 annual gross income

Required Documentation

Those who received fuel assistance during last winter should receive a fuel assistance application in the mail. Those who may be seeking assistance for the first time must schedule an appointment at the appropriate BCAC office. Be prepared to present four current, consecutive paycheck pay stubs, or, if receiving Social Security benefits, a copy of the most recent check, a bank statement reflecting the check amount, or a benefit printout available free from the Social Security Administration. Income from pensions or veteran’s benefits must be confirmed within 30 days of submitting a fuel assistance application.

Workmen’s compensation payments may be verified by showing the date of the loss and the frequency of the payment, such as weekly or monthly, four compensation payment stubs, or a letter from the agency making the payments that verifies the amount being paid.

Child support payments may be documented through four up-to-date payment stubs, a copy of a court order that determined the support amount and lists to whom the support is paid and how often, or documentation from the state Department of Revenue.

Unemployment income must be verified by presenting two current payment stubs that reflect four consecutive weeks of payments, a copy of a benefit determination letter from the state Division of Employment and Training and Unemployment Insurance Serivecs or a printout from the agency that documents the benefits being received.
Interest or dividend income must be documented with a bank statement showing any interest accrued during the most recent 30-day period.

Those who are self-employed must produce a certified copy of the most recent year’s 1040 income tax return. A complete tax package is required.

Those who earn income from rental properties must produce completed tax forms including the “E” form for rental income. If “E” forms are not used, copies of rent received receipts, tax bills, fire insurance bills, water and sewer bills, and mortgage interest documentation must be provided.

Proof of residence must be provided. Proof may be offered by providing a most recent utility bill, such as electric, telephone, gas, or television cable services bill, a copy of lease agreement, or a landlord’s statement. If heat is included in the rent, a copy of a lease must be provided.

Acceptable forms of identification include a valid driver’s license with a photograph, a photo identification card, a MassHealth or food stamp identification card, or other appropriate identification document.

Social Security cards for every member of a household must be provided.
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