Energy program sees 25% increase from residents seeking help - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Energy program sees 25% increase from residents seeking help

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(Image Courtesy: MGN Online) (Image Courtesy: MGN Online)

The chilly weather ahead means that many are preparing for the winter by heating their homes. And that, of course, comes with hefty energy bills.

This is the busiest time of the year for many agencies that help those in need. 

"We're just starting to get terribly busy here at the moment. The economy drives a lot of it. We deal primarily with the low to moderate income clientele," said Joseph Kerigan, Director of the Energy Program at the Springfield Partners for Community Action.

Kerigan says the need in Western Massachusetts is high. 

"We're the 'City of Homes', and unfortunately these homes are huge," he said. "When the economy took a little dive here, these neighborhoods really took a beating and between the tornado and a couple of other things driving this."

The Springfield Partners for Community Action has already helped dozens this year but more people are in need this time around. Kerigan says he's seen a 25% increase.

"We visit maybe a little over 1,000 homes," he said. "We'll weatherize or do some improvements to 800 to 850 homes a year."

The service is free for those who need the help the most in Western Mass. 

"The variety of the people we deal with, about 75% is funded by their gas company or their electric utility," Kerigan said. 

Contractors work to replace and repair heating systems and insulate walls and attics. But there is priority. 

"Senior citizens, medical conditions, people with small children under 2, people with high energy bills, they all get prioritized because obviously we don't get enough money to serve everybody."

A Fuel Fund is also set up for those who don't meet the income requirement but still need help. 

Copyright 2015 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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