Relief for those struggling with high energy bills

FITCHBURG — With the combination of high energy costs and a cold winter, utility bills are especially painful this year, and organizers behind an annual private charitable fund are hoping local people will dig deep to help their neighbors.

For the past 30 years, Massachusetts utility companies have teamed up with the Salvation Army to create the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which provides money for utility bill help for families who make too much money to qualify for state or federal energy-assistance funds.

“If someone is not eligible for fuel assistance, they would most likely be eligible for the Good Neighbor Energy Fund,” said Major Mark Hager of the Salvation Army’s Montachusett Corps Community Center in Fitchburg.

Hager said to his knowledge, the overwhelming source of funding is private donations from Massachusetts residents. The campaign’s fundraising goal is $550,000 this year, and he said participating families can expect to receive $275 this year. Energy and utility companies do contribute, however. On Thursday, the energy company TransCanada donated $15,000 to the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund.

To be eligible to receive the fund, a household’s gross income must fall between 60 and 80 percent of the Massachusetts median income level. For example, a household of two people would have to have a total yearly income between $42,654 and $56,872 to qualify.

“The fund has experienced an increase in the number of inquiries by those families in need of energy assistance,” said Unitil’s Sue Corson, with customer-assistance programs, in a press release. “The reasons for more requests is the recent extreme weather and electric supply rates that are higher than last year for much of New England.”

Customers who receive bills through the mail are receiving green donation envelopes this month alongside their bills. Donations can also be made at, by calling 1-800-725-2769 or by sending checks made out to “Good Neighbor Energy Fund,” c/o The Salvation Army to 25 Shawmut Road, Canton, MA 02021-1408.

To apply for assistance through the program, call 1-800-334-3047.


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