With winter temperatures dipping into the teens and below, Islanders struggling to pay their heating bills have help available in the fuel assistance program administered by Vineyard Health Care Access and Dukes County.

The county is working this year with the South Shore Community Action Council to provide fuel assistance to people under the age of 60. Residents over 60 can obtain assistance through their town councils on aging.

Fuel assistance is available until April and helps qualified residents to pay for oil, propane and kerosene. Electric heat also qualifies.

With three months to go in the peak heating season, organizers say they are seeing steady demand this year. Lisa Spencer, director of energy and emergency projects for the community action council, said in an e-mail that to date there have been 153 Vineyard applications for assistance. The number is expected to increase.

Last year, 244 Vineyard households received fuel assistance, council statistics show. Tisbury, with one of the largest year-round populations on the Island, had the lion’s share, with 92 households. Tiny Aquinnah had the fewest, with six households.

The program serves people with low to moderate incomes. A single person earning $32,618 or less per year would qualify for assistance, while two people earning $42,454 or less would be eligible. For a family of four, the annual income threshold is $62,727 or less. Applicants are required to work with a trained assistant.For a time the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging was the lone facility on the Island that provided fuel assistance to people under 60, but the council did not have the resources to continue with the program, county manager Martina Thornton said this week.

Plus, “there was a kind of concern about the potential gap in services to people under 60,” health care access director Sarah Kuh added.

Ms. Kuh reached out to Ms. Thornton this year about organizing funding for a seasonal trained applicant position. County commissioners approved spending $866 on the program; the remainder of the cost is covered by the community action council.

“It just felt wrong to not have it available the Island,” Ms. Thornton said. “The south shore does it, but you’re trying to do it over the phone . . . it’s always so much easier if these people are [here].” She continued:

“We have people that need this assistance and the help, and they’re entitled to it. There’s money for it.”

Ms. Kuh agreed. “We just want to get the word out,” she said. “We’re more concerned about people who don’t know they may qualify, or how to go about it.” She said that since Jan. 9, when the under-60 program began, there have been about two appointments per week.

At the Councils on Aging, demand for the program has remained steady. At the start of the fuel assistance season in November, the Edgartown Council on Aging reported a slight increase in usage. Oak Bluffs Council on Aging acting director Rose Cogliano said Tuesday that numbers were roughly the same as previous years.

Howes House outreach worker Ellen Reynolds reported a similar trend. “Every year there’s new applicants, so that the number is increasing,” she said. Once people sign up for the program they receive a renewal form each year.

“It’s definitely not to late for people to come in . . . and do applications,” Mrs. Reynolds said.

The process of getting approved can take up to two months.

Mrs. Reynolds also encouraged renewal applicants to visit trained assistants for help with their forms, “especially if anything’s changed from the year before.” That way, they would not run the risk of being turned down.

“It’s a cold winter, and it’s tough for folks,” she said.

For questions about fuel assistance, or to make an appointment to apply, e-mail mvfuelassistance@gmail.com or call 508-696-3843.