Assemblymember Cahill Proposes Home Heating Relief

Mr. Cahill to introduce legislation to provide grants to help seniors and working families with anticipated record high energy bills
September 16, 2005

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D - Ulster and Dutchess Counties) announced today that he is introducing legislation to help ease the anticipated burden of this winter’s home heating costs, expected to skyrocket in the coming months. The proposed bill would direct the surplus revenues collected through the sales and compensating use tax on motor fuels to a temporary state program that would issue one-time energy relief grants to households participating in the Federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).

"We are in the throes of an energy crisis," said Mr. Cahill. "A knee-jerk reaction to jump in and eliminate gas taxes might save a few cents at the pump, but it completely ignores the fact that many of our working families and, in particular, a vulnerable population of seniors and people with disabilities who may be forced to choose between eating and heating their homes this winter. New York State has the resources to step in and provide relief and my proposal will do just that."

Over the past year, fuel prices have been steadily climbing. Increased demand for oil coupled with the crippling effects of Hurricane Katrina has placed an enormous economic burden on consumers. The sharp increase in petroleum costs will result in heating bills considerably higher this winter than last for most New Yorkers. According to state energy officials, the cost of natural gas is expected to be up 32 percent this winter over last year, while the price of heating oil will jump 31 percent. Propane is expected to rise 21 percent and electricity 11 percent. A recent analysis by federal officials predicts that the average New York family will have to spend $400 more on heating bills this winter.

"Everyone is feeling the burden of increased energy costs, but some of us are better equipped to handle it than others," observed Mr. Cahill. "As Hurricane Katrina so vividly illustrated, our first responsibility has to be to make sure that those who are struggling get the help they need."

HEAP is a federally-funded energy assistance program. New York’s grant is allocated through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance for a heating benefit program, the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal for weatherization activities and the State Office for the Aging for outreach and referral activities. Local social service departments are responsible for receiving and processing applications. Last year, New York State distributed about $236 million in federal money to more than 804,000 households, 8,000 or more located in Ulster County. HEAP benefits are targeted for seniors, households with children under the age of six, persons with disabilities and families and individuals who meet defined income criteria. Examples of eligible income levels include individuals earning $21,000 or less, families of four earning $41,000 or less and families of six earning under $55,000.

"While my proposal will provide up to $200 in relief to supplement the strained HEAP program, energy grants are only a short-term solution," said Mr. Cahill. "In the coming months, my colleagues and I will dedicate our time and resources to developing a long-term energy plan that stresses alternative fuel development and conservation to help protect New Yorkers from future spikes in oil prices," he concluded.