With over 700,000 New Yorkers continuing to struggle with the financial effects of unemployment, many working-class families and senior citizens are finding themselves faced with tough choices in this very unstable economy. As colder temperatures increase home heating costs in the months ahead, already tight budgets will certainly be stretched even tighter.
This week’s column will provide tips on how everyone can lower their energy bills as well as information on the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federally funded energy assistance program administered by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
SAVE MONEY ON YOUR HEATING BILLS WITH A FEW SIMPLE CHANGES
With temperatures falling, we all will have to brace ourselves for drastic increases in our home heating costs. There are several simple steps that every family can take to minimize the impact on their checkbook:
- Set your thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature;
- Make sure heat registers, heaters and radiators are not blocked by furniture or drapes;
- Check for holes or cracks around your walls, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home;
- Secure any open fireplace dampers; and
- Household appliances account for nearly 20 percent of home energy consumption – when shopping for a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label to ensure maximum efficiency.
IT WILL BE A LONG, COLD WINTER FOR MANY NEW YORK FAMILIES
Most upstate folks, especially from my and my parents’ generations, see themselves as self-sufficient. Simply put, we pride ourselves on being able to take care of our families and lend a helping hand in the community. As a result, it is sometimes hard for us to ask for assistance when times get tough, as they have for so many in this tough economy that has left over 700,000 New Yorkers unemployed.
With home heating bills climbing higher and higher each month, many local families and seniors may be at risk but may not want to burden friends and loved ones with their economic problems.
Fortunately, there is a way to help.
HEAP HELPS FAMILIES STAY SAFE AND WARM THIS WINTER
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps thousands of fixed-income households across the state to stay warm during the winter season. The program provides heating benefits to supplement a household's annual energy costs, as well as emergency assistance for households in a heat or heat-related energy emergency. HEAP also can help cover the cost of furnace repairs and/or replacements for households with inoperable heating equipment.
According to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, regular HEAP eligibility and benefits are based on income, the primary heating source and the presence of a household member who is under age six, age 60 or older, or permanently disabled. Regular benefits for households that pay directly for heat based on actual usage are paid directly to the vendor that supplies the household's primary source of heat.
HOW TO APPLY
The recent snowfall is proof positive that another winter is right around the corner – it is important that New Yorkers do everything possible to prepare for the cold and the high energy costs associated with the coming months. The bottom line – HEAP can help many families stay warm in the winter, thereby reducing the risk of health and safety problems. If you would like information about the HEAP program and how to apply, call the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance at 1-800-342-3009. The regular benefit component of the 2011-12 HEAP program will open November 16, 2011.
I encourage you to share the information in this column with friends and loved ones that may be struggling with the cost of this fall’s and winter’s energy bills. Quite frankly, helping our neighbors is the cornerstone of what makes our upstate community such a great place to live, work and raise our families.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.