Many Mid-Shore residents and families will need assistance paying heating and electric bills even though energy prices have come down considerably from where they were last year. Heating assistance is provided by the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), where funds are made to the fuel supplier or the utility company. In addition to NSC, Easton Utilities also refers some customers to the Talbot County Department of Social Services, but often offers help when there is an emergency, including cutoff notices and when NSC is not able to help. In other counties across the Shore, including Dorchester, Kent, Caroline and Queen Anne’s, MEAP funds are distributed through the social services department. The year-round program runs from July to June and provides assistance with home heating bills. Limited assistance is available to replace broken furnaces.
Local residents in need of heating assistance can download an application and brochures from the Office of Home Energy Web site, www.dhr.state.md.us/ohep/index.php. Information on eligibility and requirements are also available on the Web site. Robin Hawthorne, coordinator for the Kent County Home Energy Program, also recommends that people call 1-800-352-1446 for an application. Customers need only apply once a year and may do it any time during the fiscal year from July to June. Funds are given based on income eligibility and the fuel type and do not need to be re-paid. Funds do not cover entire bills.
For questions or to apply, call your local administering agency: the Caroline County Department of Social Service at 410-819-4500; the Dorchester County Department of Social Services at 410-901-4100; the Kent County Department of Social Services at 410-810-7716; the Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services at 410-758-8000; or, the Talbot County Neighborhood Service Center at 410-822-5015.
Other services available include budget billing, where utility companies provide help with spreading out the annual utility bill into even monthly payments. Interested people should contact their utility company. The Weatherization Assistance Program offered through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) helps improve home energy efficiency. For eligibility and requirements, call1-800-638-7781 or visit www.dhcd.state.md.us.