A fuel delivery truck advertises its price for a gallon of heating oil, Oct. 5, 2022 in Livermore Falls, Maine. As of Nov. 14, the average price of a gallon of heating oil in Maine was $5.71, according to state officials. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A new online system designed to make applying for heating assistance simpler is now available to Mainers.

MaineHousing is launching its first iteration of the online portal for the Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as HEAP.

It will allow people to start the application process remotely while sending that information directly to their local community action agency.

That organization, which depends on where you live, will then verify and process the application.

People can also check if they are income eligible before applying.

“This is an important first step in our efforts to further streamline the HEAP application process,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said. “This portal will make applying for HEAP more accessible for thousands of Maine households and we hope it will expand the reach of the program.”

HEAP is a federally-funded program to help cover a portion of a household’s energy costs.

So far this year, 34,187 households have applied for HEAP.

That’s a 17.2 percent increase over the same number of program weeks in 2021, according to MaineHousing.

Officials have processed 18,104 applications, a 24.5 percent increase compared with last year.

“We are excited to make this program more accessible to people who need it,” Maine Community Action Partnership Executive Director Megan Hannan said. “COVID helped us to modernize the program by allowing us to conduct interviews over the phone or via another electronic means; adding this front-end step means even less dependence on our customers having to take time to travel to our offices for in-person meetings, as used to be required.”

MaineHousing officials stress that if you already have an appointment scheduled with a community action agency for HEAP that you do not also apply online, because it could create duplicate applications and slow down the system.

For more information about the HEAP program or to start your online application,   go to this website.

A full list of housing and energy programs available to help Maine people can be found on   MaineHousing’s website.