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August 30, 2023

Aroostook County receives $150K to help residents struggling with utility payments

Courtesy / Aroostook County Action Program Pictured left to right are Jason Parent, ACAP executive director/CEO; Heidi Rackliffe, ACAP director of programs; Steve Pelletier, ARPA program administrator for the County of Aroostook; and John Flynn, president of Versant Power.

Aroostook County, Versant Power and the Aroostook County Action Program are providing $150,000 in funds to help county residents pay their electric bills. 

The partnership is expected to help nearly 200 vulnerable households avoid disconnection of their electricity service.

The funding comes through Power Match, a charitable program created by Versant Power in late 2022 with community action agencies including ACAP, Penquis and Downeast Community Partners.

Over the past three years, ACAP has served thousands of customers whose finances took a hit during COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in economic hardships, including many who had never before reached out for services. Recently the county has received a growing number of calls from households who are struggling with electric bills. 

“In 2021, Aroostook County received funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to be utilized as grant funding in support of municipalities and non-profits overcoming the negative impact of the pandemic,” said Steve Pelletier, the county's ARPA program administrator. 

According to a study by Help Advisor, 1 out of every 5 Americans has struggled to pay their energy bill in full at least once in 2022. At the same time, 18% keep their house at unhealthy or unsafe temperatures. And more than 28% skipped a basic expense such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill in the last 12 months.

“We are hopeful that by providing this safety net funding, with a 100% match from Versant Power, we will be able to ensure that some of the most vulnerable households in Aroostook County receive much-needed support at this time,” said Heidi Rackliffe, ACAP director of programs. ”We see a direct correlation between maintaining electricity to securing and maintaining education, employment and better health outcomes.”

On Tuesday, ACAP, Versant Power and the county announced that a $75,000 grant awarded to ACAP through American Rescue Plan funding will be matched dollar for dollar by Versant Power.

The partners are encouraging other organizations and community members who want to assist and have their contributions matched to consider making a gift to the Power Match Fund so more area households in need of support can be served.

“We are depending on donations from individuals and businesses who may have a couple extra dollars to give to this cause,” said John Flynn, president of Versant Power.

“We know that the people of Maine are incredibly generous and look out for one another when things are hard. We count our company lucky to be part of this group and hope that those in our communities will donate so Versant can provide the remaining $117,450 of matching funds to Power Match.”

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