EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 26, 2014

Surge in N.H. fuel aid requests expected

Cold winter spurs increase for assistance

It may be spring, but fuel assistance officials still expect to receive more requests from people who can’t heat their homes.

Natural gas and electric customers who haven’t paid their bills will no longer be protected from being shut off after March 31, according to Ryan Clouthier, energy director for Southern New Hampshire Services.

A bitter cold winter with below-average temperatures means more New Hampshire residents are asking for last-minute assistance, Clouthier said.

It’s not unusual for some people to apply for assistance in April after a long, tough winter, according to Clouthier and Celeste Lovett, fuel assistance program manager for the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.

“There are households that have made it through March and just can’t get through April,” Lovett said. “Don’t wait until you get a disconnect note.”

Earlier this week, Clouthier announced low-income residents have until April 30 to apply for what’s left of the $25.5 million in assistance available to New Hampshire this year. The money is available through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

After March 31, there is always a surge in utility customers requesting assistance, he said.

“That’s when we see a big rush,” Clouthier said. “After that March 31 date, we see an application increase of about 10 to 15 percent.”

Approximately 150 Rockingham County residents who have made appointments to come into Clouthier’s office before the deadline to apply for assistance, he said,

Clouthier said he’s received 4,870 requests for assistance from county residents, with five weeks to ago. More than 5,260 residents applied for help a year ago.

He said he doesn’t want to see needy residents left out in the cold just because they are strapped to pay their heating bills.

“The demand has definitely been high this year,” Clouthier said. “People are using a lot more fuel this winter. It’s been a difficult winter. “

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