Friday, August 8, 2008

Heating Oil Program

State Rep. Dawn Hill (D- York) would like residents to know that applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will be accepted early this year, and Maine residents can make an appointment now to apply for heating assistance for this coming winter season.
Community Action Program Agencies across the state, like the York County Community Action Corp.(YCCAC), manage the LIHEAP program locally and schedule appointments for applications and fuel delivery.
“Given heating oil prices, many more residents will be applying to the program this year,” said Hill. “I encourage anyone who believes they may qualify for this program to schedule an appointment and complete an application as soon as possible to avoid processing delays.”
The program is designed to help low-income Mainers earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $15,600 for an individual and $31,800 for a family of four, to purchase heating fuels. Households with senior citizens or children age 2 and under will get first priority, and the income limits for those homes are $17,680 for an individual and $36,040 for a family of four.
There are different income limits for households of all sizes, from one person up to eight. YCCAC has information about all of the different income limits. The average benefit is expected to be around $417 per household this year, which at current rates would purchase about a third of a tank of oil.
In recent years Congress has released additional emergency funds for the program during the winter season, and the legislature and Gov. John Baldacci are urging Congress to appropriate more funds for the program this year, as demand and costs have risen so sharply. Washington has appropriated $17 million for LIHEAP to Maine this year; last year, the state got a total of $38 million after a series of emergency funds were released throughout the winter. There are no projections for the potential of additional funds from Washington at this time.
Applicants will not know if they’ve been approved or the total dollar amount that they will receive until fall, but Hill encouraged constituents to apply early in order to beat the rush and have the application process behind them. Thousands of households are expected to apply when the weather gets cold, and applying now will prevent a request from being held up for weeks or months with winter looming.
Maine homeowners and renters in York County can arrange an appointment to apply for assistance by contacting YCCAC at (800) 965-5762. YCCAC will begin to schedule appointments during the week of July 14.
In addition to LIHEAP, there are other state resources available for Mainers of all incomes to save on energy costs. For more information, constituents can contact Rep. Hill at 337-3689 or visit a new state web site:, which con-tains helpful information and resources on energy efficiency.

Eliot Inventor Shatters Stereotypes
with ‘The Renegade’

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist

Hunting and fishing are not activities usually associated with wheelchairs, but that may soon change thanks to John Rackley and his new invention: The Renegade Wheelchair. “The Renegade is the mountain bike of wheelchairs,” he explained during an interview at his Eliot home. “It can handle just about any terrain: mud, snow, beach sand, in your yard and in the woods.”
Rackley, an Eliot native, lost the use of his legs in a trampoline accident 6 years ago. “After my injury, I couldn’t get out to where I used to hunt.” Thus, the inspiration for the Renegade. The concept for his invention came from the mountain bike he purchased for his daughter Kayla. He noticed its thick tires and wondered whether that same off-road approach could work for wheelchairs. “I began 6 years ago using bikes from the dump. It worked, so then I bought two new bikes and put those together.” And he was off and running.
Rackley completed the Renegade in early 2006, and has since found other ways to put it to work. “It’s opened up all kinds of things. Now I plow my driveway with it. I can push 8-10 inches of fluffy snow with it. I can also attach a yard trailer. I pulled 300 lbs in the yard cart the other day.” The Renegade is powered entirely by the user, and does not use a motor.
In July, the Renegade made a successful appearance at the Paralyzed Veterans of America Wheelchair Games in Omaha, Nebraska. “Hundreds there were interested, and we are now completing a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Rackley has partnered with AlphaOne Center for Independent Living in South Portland to promote the Renegade, and has also hired a salesman for what he anticipates will be a large demand.
“There are 1.6 million wheelchair users in the US,” according to Rackley, “and this is for any wheelchair user that wants to get out in the woods, work in the yard or go in the snow. We now have demo chairs for people to go into the woods with me for a couple hours.”
The Renegade will soon make an appearance on the hunting show North American Safari, to be aired both on the Sportsman Channel and the Pursuit Channel. “We are going wild hog hunting in South Carolina, and I can’t wait.”
The Renegade is now being manufactured by Don’s Sheet Metal in Biddeford. The current price is $3,995.
For more information and to see video clips of the Renegade in action, go to

Caption: John Rackley does some ocean fishing in The Renegade. ( photo)