Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced that New York State is expanding its Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to help more households meet their home heating needs this winter. An increase in federal aid will help underwrite the additional benefits. Standard HEAP benefits assist low-income New Yorkers to pay for the cost of heating their homes. HEAP also provides emergency benefits to New Yorkers who are facing a heat or heat-related energy emergency and do not have the available resources to meet the emergency.
“HEAP offers such a critical benefit at this time of the year, especially with the impact the economic downturn is having on so many households,” said Assemblywoman Galef. “More families than ever are contacting my office looking for help in this area. Many of them are having to choose between putting food on the table, paying for necessary medicines, or keeping the temperature in their homes above 60 degrees. This additional funding infusion will help keep seniors on fixed incomes and working families struggling to make ends meet warm, healthy, and safe during the cold winter months.”
Galef said that a one-time federal authorization increased the income levels for emergency HEAP benefits from 60 percent of the state’s median household income to 75 percent, beginning January 1, 2009. Under the new emergency level, a family of four with a household income of as much as $56,635 – up from $45,312 in 2008 – would qualify for an emergency HEAP benefit if the resources the household has available to meet the emergency are less than the amount of the HEAP emergency benefit.
The new benefit will automatically be issued to current HEAP recipients that pay directly for heat, increasing the maximum regular HEAP benefit from $800 to $900. “Severe weather and an uncertain economy pose additional risks to the poor and elderly, and we must continue to do everything we can to help them through these difficult times,” Galef said. “Expanding emergency HEAP is a first step in providing additional protection for our most vulnerable citizens. People in need can receive as much as $2,500 in total aid this winter to heat their homes. This could mean survival for some, during what is shaping up to be a bitter winter season.”
Further information about HEAP, including how to apply, is available by calling the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-342-3009 or by visiting the OTDA Web site at www.otda.state.ny.us/main/heap. To find out if you are potentially eligible for HEAP assistance, visit www.myBenefits.ny.gov.