Assembly Passes Measure to Provide Home Heating Relief

The legislation dedicates an additional $200 million to help seniors and working families with record high energy bills
January 10, 2006

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D - Ulster and Dutchess Counties) announced today that the Assembly passed legislation (A.9281) to help ease the burden of this winter's home heating costs, which have skyrocketed in recent months. The bill would direct $200 million in state funds to supplement the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

"We are in the throes of an energy crisis," said Mr. Cahill. "We cannot simply ignore the fact that many of our working families and, in particular, a vulnerable population of seniors and people with disabilities are currently being forced to choose between eating and heating their homes. New York State has the resources to step in and provide relief and this 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 has resulted in heating bills considerably higher this winter than last for most New Yorkers. State energy officials have estimated that the cost of natural gas has risen 32 percent this winter over last year, while the price of heating oil has jumped 31 percent. A recent analysis by federal officials predicts that the average New York family will 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."

LIHEAP 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. LIHEAP 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.

"This important legislation will provide $200 million in relief to supplement the strained LIHEAP program, but energy grants are only a short-term solution," said Mr. Cahill. This past fall, in anticipation of the rise in energy costs, Assemblymember Cahill introduced similar legislation (A.9065) which would have directed $160 million into LIHEAP using the projected surplus in revenue from the sales and compensating use tax on motor fuels. "In the coming months of the Legislative Session, 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.