MAINE (NEWS CENTER) -- Every year thousands of Mainers struggle to heat their homes. NEWS CENTER's Project Heat raises money to support the Keep ME Warm fund. The annual statewide Project Heat telethon is underway right now, Thursday Jan. 19, 2017, from 5:00 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. There is a phone bank in Portland as well as Bangor. Dead River Company is the sponsor of Project Heat and all the proceeds from the telethon will be placed in the United Way’s Keep Me Warm Fund.
Keep ME Warm provides emergency heating assistance through the United Ways and Community Action Agencies throughout Maine. That aims to bridge the gap for families who no longer qualify for federal funds. United Ways disperses the money collected through Project Heat to Mainers all over the state. Some of the money raised will also go to towns and churches that have their own heating assistance programs.
The team at NEWS CENTER will be answering your calls and taking your donations. The phone number for viewers of WCSH 6 in southern Maine is 855-875-4328. And viewers of WLBZ 2 in eastern and northern Maine can donate by calling 855-874-9529.
You can also donate online or send a check to:
United Way of Greater Portland
Keep ME Warm c/o United Way of Greater Portland
P.O. Box 15200 Portland, ME 04112
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Launched in 2008, Keep ME Warm, a partnership of the ten United Ways in Maine and ten Community Action Agencies (CAPs), is the only statewide program that provides emergency heating assistance and support to low-income households and local organizations throughout Maine.
THE NEED FOR KEEP ME WARM
In Maine, 59% of low-income households struggle to meet their basic needs, spending more than 30% of their income on housing, far more than the recommended amount to help keep a household financially stable. 1 2 For the more than 172,6203 people living in poverty in Maine, winter means having to choose between heating their homes and paying for other needs like food and medical care.
From July 2015 through June 2016, 5,678 people in need of emergency heating assistance contacted 2-1-1 Maine, a toll-free phone number (211) and online directory (211Maine.org) connecting people to health and human service-related resources.4 As Maine’s winter temperatures decreased, 2-1-1 saw a 450% increase in the number of calls from people looking for help.
Most Maine homeowners pay more on heating oil than on any other energy expense during the winter months, especially for those who live in older homes that are not energy-efficient. According to the State of Maine Governor’s Energy Office, two-thirds of Maine households use fuel oil as their primary energy source for home heating—a higher share than in any other state in the nation.5
As federal funding for heating assistance continues to decrease, Keep ME Warm becomes more critical than ever, particularly for households with individuals who are elderly or young or who have disabilities. The average federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefit of $637 per household is projected to cover less than one-third of the $2,000 cost of keeping a household warm over the winter. While on occasion fuel prices may be lower, the costs for other basic needs such as rent and food continue to rise, often creating a difficult choice for those living in poverty.
The volatile price of petroleum and the variance of temperatures during the winter season are challenging for Keep ME Warm’s fundraising efforts. When heating oil prices are low, Keep ME Warm’s assistance can have a greater impact, but potential Keep ME Warm donors may be disincentivized because the need for emergency heating assistance is perceived to be decreased. However, over the course of a winter, oil prices may increase sharply as the average daily winter temperatures fall.
1. 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
2. Making less than $35,000 per year
4. 2-1-1 Maine is a partnership of the United Ways of Maine, The Opportunity Alliance, and the State of Maine
5. U.S. Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.cfm?sid=ME