Assemblyman Englebright: Legislature Agrees to Help New Yorkers with Heating Costs This Winter

January 26, 2006

Assemblyman Englebright (D-Setauket), Chair of the Committee on Aging, announced today that the Assembly and Senate have agreed to provide emergency funds to the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to help offset high energy costs that are endangering the well-being of the elderly and families of modest means.

New York will now contribute an additional $100 million to the program, which up until now, has solely relied on federal funding. Under the $100 million Legislative agreement, the appropriation would prevent the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's anticipated shutdown of the program in March and would allow for additional HEAP benefits to seniors and other low-income New Yorkers. This money will be distributed to counties throughout New York State with Suffolk County receiving an additional $3,025,960

“Unprecedented fuel prices have left many families with nowhere to turn, which underscores the dire need for more assistance to our most vulnerable residents,” said Assemblyman Englebright. “A recent AARP study showed that 20 percent of seniors are foregoing needed medications to pay for their heat and 80 percent of New Yorkers believe the state should help those who cannot afford the huge increase in their bills. This agreement will ensure that older New Yorkers and families throughout the state will not be placed in harm's way because of inadequate federal funding for heating assistance. New York now joins all the other cold-weather states in recognizing the need for assistance and passing legislation that will provide a supplement to federal HEAP."

Assemblyman Englebright noted that the timing of the agreement is critical, as federal funding to New York for the HEAP program has been reduced $15 million in recent years. Families heating their homes with oil have seen prices per gallon rise 21 percent over the last year and 60 percent over two years. Natural gas prices are up a similar amount. While grant amounts have remained flat, HEAP applications have increased by 25 percent this year.

Last year, the HEAP program had approximately 848,000 beneficiaries in New York State. 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.

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 to $400. 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.

Questions regarding the HEAP program should be directed to the Suffolk County Department of Social Services Office at (631) 854-9700. After hours: DSS (516) 854-9100. The NYS HEAP Hotline is (800) 342-3009.