Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak (D-Cheektowaga) announced that New York State is expanding its Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to help additional households meet their home heating needs this winter due to an increase in federal aid. Standard HEAP benefits assist low-income New Yorkers in paying for the cost of heating their homes. HEAP also provides emergency benefits to New Yorkers who are facing a heat or heat-related energy emergency and do not have the available resources to meet the emergency.
“HEAP benefits are especially important during such a rough economic downturn,” Gabryszak said. “Many families have been running low on heating fuel or have had to choose between putting food on their table, paying for necessary prescription medicines or keeping the temperature in their home above 60 degrees. This funding will help keep seniors on fixed incomes and working families struggling to make ends meet warm, healthy and safe during the cold weather.”
Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak said a one-time federal authorization increased the income levels for emergency HEAP benefits from 60 percent of the state’s median household income to 75 percent, beginning January 1, 2009. Under the new emergency levels, a family of four with a household income of as much as $56,635 – a threshold that increased from $45,312 in 2008 – would qualify for an emergency HEAP benefit if the resources the household has available to meet the emergency are less than the amount of the HEAP emergency benefit.
New York State has received $550.9 million in federal HEAP funding – helping to provide emergency benefit payments to many households that were not previously eligible and offer an additional $100 HEAP benefit to current recipients, according to Gabryszak. The benefit will automatically be issued to current HEAP recipients that pay directly for heat, increasing the maximum regular HEAP benefit from $800 to $900.
“Severe weather and an uncertain economy pose additional risks to the poor and elderly, and we must continue to do everything we can to help them through these difficult times,” Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak said. “Expanding emergency HEAP is a first step in providing additional protection for those who are most vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices.”
Families throughout the state have already dealt with several setbacks during the last two months, including ice and snow storms that crippled several regions of the state and left thousands of residents without heat and electricity for several days.
“New York’s most vulnerable residents could receive as much as $2,500 in aid this winter to help heat their homes,” Gabryszak said. “That could be the difference in surviving what promises to be a bitter winter season.”
For further information about HEAP including how to apply, please call (716)-858-7870. An application may also be obtained at one of the Erie County district offices. In addition seniors who are unable to apply in person may call the senior services hotlines at (716)-858-8526 in order to have a case worker apply for HEAP benefits on their behalf. Erie County residents may also call the Erie County HEAP hotline (716) - 858-7870 or visit http://www.erie.gov/depts/seniorservices/finance/utility_heap.asp for the latest information on HEAP