In these harsh winter months, it is important that we bundle up and prepare ourselves for the frigid weather. After a very successful coat drive, in which our community donated over a thousand coats that were distributed to families and children in need, my office confronted another heating related problem. Because of the rough economic climate, many families have simply been unable to afford the high cost of energy, subjecting them to the bitter cold.
Late last Friday afternoon, a recently unemployed constituent phoned my office because their heat and hot water had been shut off for several weeks. Sick and tired of bearing the cold, this person traveled to the office of the Education and Assistance Corporation in Hempstead, where they had difficulty cutting through the bureaucratic red tape. After contacting my office, I was able to help and within a few minutes their HEAP application was approved. Within a few hours, their heating and hot water was back on.
Fortunately, there is sometimes an answer, and real assistance is offered for those who face similar situations. The Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, is a program coordinated at the federal, state, and local levels that makes direct payments to home heating suppliers on behalf of qualifying households. Households on social service or food stamps are automatically eligible, and there are several other household income requirements to qualify those who are not. With this program in place, those who are suffering hard times can receive a helping hand and need not have to suffer the cold in their own homes.
I urge any of us who are in danger or know of a friend or neighbor in peril to reach out to their governmental representatives for assistance, especially during the frigid cold of winter.