OPINION: Helping Our Neighbors

By Martin O'Malley, Governor

This week we stood with Senators Mikulski and Cardin to announce that Maryland's energy assistance program is expected to provide help to approximately 102,400 households this year thanks to a large boost in federal funding. Thanks to the hard work of our Congressional delegation, federal energy assistance for Maryland has increased from $35 million to $110 million.

These challenging times that we face as a State and as a nation are becoming increasingly difficult with the harsh cold of the winter. During serious weather situations, the ability to heat one's home can be a life or death issue. And in our One Maryland, where we're united in our belief in the dignity of every individual and our belief that there is no such thing as a spare Marylander, it is unacceptable for any citizen to lose his or her life due to an inability to pay a heating bill.

Thanks to this increased federal funding, we can increase the reach of our energy assistance program to more than 10,000 additional recipients, provide recipients with a larger benefit, reach eligible citizens who haven't yet applied for assistance, and help those citizens who have fallen behind in their energy bills get up to date and avoid having their heating shut off.

As we work together to overcome our challenges and protect our shared priorities, it is important that we look after our friends and neighbors who may be in need of assistance this winter. Eligibility for energy assistance is determined by income. A family of four earning less than $37,100 per year, for example, would qualify, as would an individual earning up to $18,200 per year. Citizens should call 1-800-332-6347 to inquire.

Alternatively, we are accepting applications through our State's new “Problemsolver” webpage, an online one-stop-shop encompassing all the various State and federal resources available to assist families during these difficult economic times. The website can be accessed at http://www.problemsolver.maryland.gov/ .

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