Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Chair of the Committee on Aging, was joined today by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Energy Committee Chair Paul Tonko to announce anticipated passage today of their legislation (Assembly Bill A.9281) which would provide a $200 million emergency home heating assistance appropriation. This measure augments the existing federal low income Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
The Assembly also passed a resolution urging Congress to step up and increase the amount of HEAP aid to New York (K.1211).
Heating fuel prices of all types have climbed by double-digit percentages each of the last two years and by over 90% since 1999. This rise in heating costs has created a terrible burden for senior citizens on fixed incomes and low-income families throughout the state. However, while HEAP grant amounts have remained flat, applications are up by 10 to 25 percent this year, and considering that the numbers of eligible households are increasing, even more applications are anticipated.
“This legislation is recognition that New Yorkers of all ages are being overburdened by the weight of rising energy costs and they need assistance in paying for their heat immediately,” said Committee on Aging Chair, Steve Englebright. “An AARP study released yesterday showed that 20% of older New Yorkers are foregoing needed medications in order to pay for their heat and 80% of New Yorkers are concerned that they will be able to afford their heating bills this winter. This necessary legislation will ensure that older New Yorkers and families throughout the state will not be placed in harms way because of inadequate federal funding for heating assistance. New York now joins all the other cold weather states in recognizing and acting to help those in need.”
Last year, the HEAP program had more than 822,000 beneficiaries in New York State. According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, eligible households that pay directly for heat receive a HEAP benefit amount ranging from $150 - $400 and eligible households that do not pay directly for heat receive a standard statewide benefit of $40 or $50 depending on income level.
HEAP eligibility in New York is based on household size and income; for example, gross monthly income for a household of two must be at or below $2,358 and for a household of four must be at or below $3,468.
Federal HEAP dollars also pay for administrative costs and fund the weatherization program that improves energy efficiency in eligible households. The size of the benefit varies by type of heating source, size of household, income and whether a young child or a disabled or elderly person is present.
“Seniors and families should not have to choose between purchasing needed prescriptions, food and other necessities and their heat. While Congress failed to act, the Assembly has taken the first step in providing a real benefit to people right now. We cannot wait for the budget and we certainly cannot rely on a tax credit for relief,” continued Englebright “The number of families applying across the state is rising, costs are rising, yet the amount New York State gets from the federal program is flat. We are obligated to respond to this need and we have, by introducing and passing A.9281. We urge the Senate to pass it and the Governor to sign it.”