Everyone already knows that home heating costs are running much higher this winter than in previous years. My Assembly colleagues and I are concerned that too many people canít afford these skyrocketing costs, thus endangering the health and safety of many low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, as well as elderly residents on fixed incomes.
Last week, the Assembly passed a bill that earmarks $200 million in supplemental state funds to the federally funded Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). However, the bill must still pass the state Senate and be signed into law by the governor before the appropriation can be made.
The state Senate in September offered and approved its own HEAP funding proposal, and the current state budget is expected to have a $2 billion surplus at the end of New Yorkís fiscal year, so we are very hopeful both houses will quickly reach a consensus and pass along a bill to the governor for his consideration.
The Assembly bill provides for qualified HEAP recipients who applied since September 30, 2005 to be eligible for the additional state funds. We feel this would help ease the cost burden for our residents. The benefits would extend to those residents who apply by June 1 and are deemed eligible for help.
Rising costs are affecting more than only seniors and the poor. Middle-income families are also struggling to make energy payments, but a solution is in sight.
The Assembly also passed a resolution urging Congress to provide additional federal funds. We also want our state senators to be aware of the risk to our low-income and senior citizen residents if they donít get more financial help. Winters in New York are extremely cold, and the need for reliable heat becomes critical as the season wears on.
The governor plans to look at both bills and, hopefully, he will help both houses reach a bipartisan agreement. For now, HEAP is still available to eligible citizens, and I encourage everyone to inquire. It may make your winter heating costs much more manageable!
For more information contact my office at (315) 781-2030 or look up HEAPís website at http://www.otda.state.ny.us/otda/heap/default.htm.