A sign in the Maine House of Representatives chamber shows the overwhelming approval to heating assistance to Mainers on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the State House in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — The 880,000 Mainers eligible for the state’s next round of relief checks should get them by the end of the winter.

These payments add up to most of the $473 million heating aid bill passed by the Maine Legislature and signed by Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday.

It also includes money to complete a round of $850 checks from last year that did not fully go out due to a funding issue.

Here’s what you need to know about this coming round.

Who is eligible for the checks?

The program is based on 2021 income tax returns and Mainers do not need to take action to claim the checks. The terms are the same as they were in the last round.

Checks will go to single filers making less than $100,000 and those filing as heads of households making less than $150,000. For couples filing jointly, the cutoff is $200,000 and each filer will get a $450 check.

When will they be going out?

The first checks should be mailed in late January, Sharon Huntley, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Administration and Financial Services, said. The state is estimating that all payments should be out by the end of March.

That is faster than the last round, which passed the Legislature in March and began going out in June. This is because the parameters of the program did not change compared to then, Kirsten Figueroa, Mills’ budget commissioner, told a legislative panel last month.

What about those who didn’t get checks last time?

Eagle-eyed readers might notice that media coverage in 2021 said 858,000 Mainers were estimated to be eligible for that round of $850 checks. But 880,000 was the actual number, which included many who are not normally required to file tax returns.

Public awareness of the program this summer led many to file and funding was exhausted, Figueroa has said. It has meant that more than 13,000 eligible Mainers have not gotten those checks, with many of them filing the necessary returns close to an October deadline.

This bill contains another $11.5 million to meet that commitment. Since the parameters for the next round are the same as the last one and those eligible had to submit a 2021 return, there should be sufficient funding, Huntley said.

What about extenuating circumstances?

The last round of payments was sent to the address that filers had on their 2021 tax returns and the state offered an email address to submit changes of address.

During that round, the state also advised family members of Mainers who had recently died but had received checks because they were alive for at least some of 2021 that they could treat the checks as part of the dead person’s estate or mail them back to the state.

With other questions, you can call Maine Revenue Services at (207) 624-9924.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...