More than $90 million in federal funding through the Home Energy Assistance Program is now available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their heating bills amid fuel price increases this winter, Governor Kathy Hochul announced last week.
Administered by the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, applications for the home heating aid opened on January 3 for those who have already used up their regular benefit and are now facing an emergency, according to a press release.
â€śWith the arrival of frigid winter weather and surging fuel prices, we must do everything in our power to safeguard vulnerable New Yorkers struggling to keep their heat on,â€ť Hochul said in a statement. â€śThis significant increase in available emergency home heating aid represents a lifeline for tens of thousands of families. It will help them heat their homes, prevent overdue bills from piling up, and avoid the incredible stress and anxiety that can overwhelm anyone facing a heating emergency.â€ť
Depending on the type of heating fuel used for the household, the emergency benefit amount has increased by at least 32 percent per home, and upward of 42 percent, the release said. For example, a home heated with natural gas will now be eligible for $465, a 32.8-percent increase over last yearâ€™s benefit, while a home using oil, kerosene or propane will be eligible for a $965, a 42.9-percent increase over the previous year.
â€śFar too many New Yorkers struggle to make ends meet as the cold-weather months continue. And with the pronounced increases in heating utility expenses, this year will be no exception,â€ť Barbara C. Guinn, executive deputy commissioner of the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, said in a statement. â€śHEAPâ€™s emergency benefit provides a timely stop-gap for those households that are falling behind on their heating bills, or are at-risk of exhausting their heating fuel supply, so that they can continue warming their homes through the winter.â€ť
Over the fall, the New York Public Service Commission forecast that heating bills would significantly increase this winter â€” with natural gas projected to increase by an average of 21 percent statewide. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the cost of propane has also increased about 30 percent since last winter, the release said.
To be eligible for the emergency benefit, an income-qualifying household must be facing a heating utility shutoff, or electric utility service disconnection if it is necessary to operate the primary heating equipment. Households that have less than one quarter tank of oil, kerosene, or propane, have exhausted their heating fuel supply, or have less than a 10-day supply of other heating fuels also qualify for the benefit.
Applications for assistance are accepted at local social services departments in person or by telephone, with funding provided on a first-come, first-served basis. For a list of local offices by county, visit otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/contacts.
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