They spoke of the occasional person who runs out of heating oil and cannot afford to have the fuel tank filled. “We do have households that will be in an emergency situation in December,” Lovett said. “Now is the time to apply.”
For those who do receive fuel assistance, the money usually doesn’t go very far, Lovett said.
The average payment is about $750 — enough to pay for about 200 gallons of oil, Lovett said. That’s about one-quarter of what a typical family needs to heat their home in the winter, she said.
And getting that money has become increasingly difficult for some. Eligibility requirements have been tightened to help those most in need, Lovett said.
To top it off, petroleum prices have been rising as of late — fueling fears of high oil costs this winter.
The average price for a gallon of heating oil in New Hampshire is $3.74, according to the state Office of Energy and Planning. That’s an eight-cent increase in only a month and a 14-cent increase over a year ago.
Those who need fuel assistance apply to local Community Action offices, including Rockingham Community Action — which is overseen by Southern New Hampshire Services. Bergeron said her office has already received 7,709 applications for fuel assistance from residents of Rockingham and Hillsborough counties.
In addition, 2,314 appointments for fuel assistance have been scheduled, she said. More than 16,000 households received assistance in the two counties last year.
The need to help those who have trouble paying for heating oil is why Kathy Wagner of Londonderry founded the Warm Homes program. People in dire need receive shipments of oil, she said.
She usually doesn’t start accepting requests until after Nov. 1, but calls are already coming in, she said.
“The people I’m getting calls from are extremely scared,” she said. “I’m hoping we can help as many as we can.”