In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – With energy prices on the rise this winter, Attorney General Maura Healey has announced a new grant program to help Massachusetts residents pay their monthly heating bills.
“Each winter, tens of thousands of families across our state struggle to pay their heating bills and that’s only worsened with the unprecedented pandemic and rising energy prices,” Healey said. “Our goal with this program is to help give Massachusetts residents the financial support they need to stay warm this winter.”
Economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and volatility in global fossil fuel prices are leading to a spike in energy prices this winter. AG Healey’s Residential Energy Assistance Grant (REAG) will provide approximately $500,000 in funding to organizations that assist Massachusetts households in paying their energy bills.
The program builds on the office’s Natural Gas Fuel Assistance grant program by expanding the types of fuel sources that are eligible for assistance. In addition to natural gas, eligible fuels may include, but aren’t limited to, electricity, oil, and propane.
The Natural Gas Fuel Assistance grant program has awarded more than $3 million over three years to organizations across the state including the United Way, the Lend a Hand Society, the Southeast Asian Coalition, the Massachusetts Association for Community Action.
The AG’s REAG program is open to state agencies, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations with eligible programs including those that provide direct assistance to residents by subsidizing their home heating costs or those that provide specialized assistance to customers in need including help translating application documents.
Approximately 400,000 Massachusetts residential customers currently receive a low-income discount rate on their electric and gas bills, with more customers signing up for payment plans each week. Enrollment in similar programs is expected to increase with this winter’s high energy rates.
The AG’s Office is especially interested in proposals for programs that will provide funding to families who otherwise would not be receiving fuel assistance, or who are not receiving sufficient help in paying their monthly heating bills. Successful applicants will be those that provide assistance to households that make 80 percent or less than the Massachusetts median income.
Families that make 60 to 80 percent of the state’s median income are particularly vulnerable to this winter’s rising energy rates and are simultaneously ineligible for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The REAG program is funded through a settlement that the AG’s Office reached in September 2020 with the competitive electric supplier, Starion Energy, for using unfair and deceptive sales tactics to lure more than 100,000 Massachusetts customers into expensive contracts with high electricity rates.
In advance of this winter’s rising heating rates, AG Healey launched a campaign in November to educate residents about the new and expanded programs available to assist them in paying their energy bills. As part of the campaign, the AG’s Office has reached out to communities across the state to connect them with resources and to urge customers to contact their utility company to learn about the range of assistance programs that they may qualify for, including flexible payment plans as well as balance forgiveness programs. For more information on the available programs, see the AG’s resource flyer that is available in multiple languages.
The grant program will start on Feb. 7, 2022 and run through June 15, 2024.
Interested applicants can visit the AG’s website, www.mass.gov/ago/grants for more information and for application instructions.
Questions about the grant program can be submitted by email to AGOGrants@mass.gov by 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2022.
Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2022.