Federal heating assistance for Maine is expected to be lower this coming winter compared with last year.
In this Sept. 25, 2009, file photo, Kieth Franklin a delivery driver for Cash Energy drags the oil hose up a driveway in Old Orchard Beach for a delivery. Credit: Shawn Patrick Ouellette / AP

Temperatures in Maine are still summer-like, but advocates say high heating costs and an expected decline in federal aid are creating concerns about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program ahead of this winter.

Last winter, Maine benefited from an additional $63 million in federal and state heating assistance, on top of the state’s usual allocation.

“A large part of individuals’ heating bills were entirely consumed with all the special funding that we had,” said Heidi Rackliffe of the Aroostook County Action Program. “And that’s just … at this moment is not expected, which is going to be a concern.”

The Aroostook County Action Program said it’s warning clients this year to expect no more than a third of the benefits they received last winter.

About 6,000 people in Aroostook County were approved for heating aid last year, Rackliffe said. Those households all have appointments lined up through next spring to apply again for aid, on top of any new applicants who will try for heating assistance for the first time this year.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm in terms of cause for anxiety on the part of those of us who work with vulnerable populations across the state of Maine as to what this energy season might look like for folks who might have to make some challenging decisions on things like prescription drugs, food on the table, rent and other things,” said Jason Parent, ACAP’s CEO.

Parent said with such high demand and less aid to go around, advocates are bracing for an uptick in emergency calls for help early this winter. He and others are calling on policymakers to come up with more federal or state funds for heating assistance.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.