There’s still time for residents of Derry, Londonderry, Chester, Hampstead and Sandown to apply for home heating assistance.
Ryan Clouthier, Director of Fuel Services for Southern New Hampshire Services in Manchester, said this year’s budget is a federal Continuing Resolution from last year and it remained the same amount, $24 million for all of New Hampshire, though he added, “We’re still waiting for the release of some of the funds.”
The number is lower than in previous years, Clouthier said, citing 2008-09, when New Hampshire was allotted $50 million to distribute among its coldest residents.
Clouthier said he could not extrapolate the amount of money used, or the amount of users, in Rockingham County or in the Nutfield Publishing towns. “Both Hillsborough and Rockingham counties are in the same budget, so I can’t single out a particular town,” he explained.
But overall, he said, that’s “less than half” than the state was receiving six years ago. And today there’s more places for it to go.
To make it work, Clouthier and his staff are determined not to turn anyone away. Instead, they are trimming the individual allotments. “For example, last year the range of assistance was $150 to $1,125,” he said. “This year it’s $75 to $1,125.”
As of Monday, Jan. 6, the agency had seen 14,542 applications from Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, and had certified 10,000 households.
The maximum income for a one-person household to qualify is $22,980, Clouthier said.
Who’s applying? While the agency doesn’t release personal information, he said that, anecdotally, he’s seen the effects of the economy on his clients. While many are still impacted by the recession, the real driver this year is the extreme cold.
“This year has been a difficult year, with the record lows,” Clouthier said. “There is an impact on families. That’s why we’ve been seeing more appointments in the last few weeks. Some people have already received a benefit for this year, and the extreme cold is forcing them to ask for more.”
Clouthier said they are still taking names and applications, and will try to help even if it’s at the $75 level. “We’re going to go till it’s gone,” Clouthier said.
For more information, visit www.snhs.org or www.rcaction.org.