ACAP Prepares for an Increase in HEAP Appointments
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), administered locally by Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP), is on track to serve even more households this year than in past years, as the income guidelines have increased and an increase in need is anticipated as a result of the pandemic.
Intake interviews for the program began in late August and the ACAP team has already completed over 3,000 appointments. For the safety of our community and staff, all appointments this year will be conducted over the phone instead of in person as in years past. The ACAP intake specialist will call the applicant on the date and time established when the appointment was scheduled. It is critical that the applicant is available by phone at that specific time, being unavailable will require the applicant to be rescheduled at another day and time. This can be problematic as appointments fill up quickly. The phone interview takes approximately 15 minutes, and after it is completed a packet of paperwork is mailed directly to the applicant’s home. All enclosed forms must be signed, completed and returned to ACAP within 20 business days or the application will be voided. After all the documents are received, the certification team reviews the documentation and approves or denies the application based on the information provided. If there are any questions or missing information the team will reach back out to the client to see if the missing information is available in an attempt to complete the application.
"It is important to remember that this is an assistance program that was designed to supplement costs as Mainers heat their homes,” said Erin Benson, Program Coordinator. She continued, “We are encouraging anyone who needs assistance to call us to schedule an appointment as the program guidelines have drastically increased over the past two years. For example a family of two can have a monthly gross income of $3,065 and still qualify for the program. A family of four can have a monthly gross income of $4,508 and again still qualify for the program. Because of the sharp increase in eligibility guidelines we are strongly encouraging those who may have been denied in the past to contact us to see if we can help this year.” The benefit amount is based on several factors including: household size, income and home energy costs.
The dedicated ACAP team has already completed over 3,000 phone interviews and have the capacity to work with even more households this season, which runs through July 15, 2021. ACAP is currently scheduling appointments into February and is encouraging anyone who may need assistance to review the income guidelines found on their website at www.acap-me.org/programs/energyhousing/ or call to schedule an appointment as they do fill up quickly. For those households that have had their appointments in the late summer, early fall months, Maine Housing is anticipating that a letter will be mailed out by the end of November with the benefit amount. It is at that time the benefit payment will be sent directly to the vendor. That credit remains on the account for 18 months. Last season, ACAP completed 5,420 appointments and 4,733 households qualified for a benefit.