Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) 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,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “Many families all over the state have been running low on heating fuel and have to choose between putting food on their table or heating their homes. This is not a choice that should have to be made by anyone. This additional funding will help alleviate the problem, but we must first make sure all those in need are aware of the program and its benefits.”
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 to offer an additional $100 HEAP benefit to current recipients, according to Assemblywoman Russell. The benefit will automatically be issued to current HEAP recipients who pay directly for heat, increasing the maximum regular HEAP benefit from $800 to $900.
“Anyone who has lived in the North Country or has visited during the winter knows the severe weather we face,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “With a long, harsh winter comes higher heating bills and an increased risk of weather-related emergencies.”
“Many residents are aware of the program but are not aware of the entire scope of coverage,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “HEAP benefits are available for replacing or repairing an applicant’s furnace, boiler and/or other essential heating equipment. I urge all those experiencing difficulty to look into taking advantage of this essential program.”
For further information about HEAP, including how to apply, please call your local HEAP provider. Jefferson County residents can call 782-9030 or for emergencies call 786-6721, and St. Lawrence County residents can call 379-2373 or for emergencies call 379-2111. All those with access to the internet can visit the OTDA website at http://www.otda.state.ny.us/main/heap/. To find out if you are potentially eligible for HEAP assistance, visit www.myBenefits.ny.gov.