GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A record amount of fuel assistance applications have been placed this year in western Massachusetts.

According to National Grid of Massachusetts, the monthly bill of an average residential electric customer has increased from $179 last winter to approximately $293 for this winter season and for fuel assistance programs, it comes as no surprise there’s been an increase of people looking for help.

Peter Wingate, Energy Director at Community Action Pioneer Valley, told 22News, “All across the state, and especially here in Franklin and Hampshire County, we’ve seen more people apply for fuel assistance than we’ve ever seen. I’ve been here for 15 years and I’ve been around fuel assistance for over 35 years and I’ve never seen this amount of people applying before.”

Community Action Pioneer Valley has reported that in January alone the organization logged over 1,800 phone calls and this year has approved over 3,000 applications. The sheer amount of applications plus a software problem that delayed the fuel assistance program for over a month has caused the backup for Community Action.

“We had a slower start than we were set for. We were set to start the season in August and the software that’s provided by the state was just not ready to go so we had a slower start and than we wanted. So it’s definitely taking longer than usual and people have had to wait longer than we wish they did for us to process the number of applications we’ve had this year,” said Wingate.

For people with less than an eighth of a tank of oil, it is considered an emergency and their application will be put to the front of the line. It should be approved, denied or deemed incomplete within 18 business hours.

Community Action told 22News that if you haven’t applied for fuel assistance yet to not be discouraged by delays and you should definitely still apply if you qualify.