Keeping Onondaga County Families Warm This Winter

September 5, 2008
As we enter the cooler autumn months, itís important to recognize the difficult winter ahead of us. The costs of home heating are rising Ė and itís vital that the state do all it can to ensure our residents are able to heat their homes. I supported landmark legislation in the Assembly earlier this summer to expand the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP. I urge all middle and low income families to take advantage of the program.

Times may be tough this winter. In August, the federal Energy Information Administration projected that residential heating oil prices this October to March will be an average $4.34 per gallon, a 31 percent increase from last year. This has the potential to cripple hardworking families already struggling to make ends meet. Having heat during the upcoming snowy, frigid months is not a luxury Ė itís a necessity.

This year, the Assembly passed a bill I supported to ease this burden. This bill would establish a windfall recapture tax and a windfall profits tax on oil companies, which would be used to help fund an expanded Home Energy Assistance Program and other energy efficiency and conservation programs (A.11590). A second bill, the Home Heating Relief Act (A.11131-A), which would create a $1,000 tax deduction for all heating oil, natural gas and propane that is used for home heating this winter, has been introduced into the Assembly but has not yet been voted on.

For immediate help to defray skyrocketing energy costs, low income families can apply for fuel subsidies under HEAP, a federally funded energy assistance program administered by Onondaga County. The highest benefits are given to those that spend a large amount of their income on energy bills, have a vulnerable household member (a child under 6 years old, adult over 60 or disabled individual) and have a low income. However, I strongly urge anyone that feels overwhelmed with energy bills to apply.

Onondaga County residents under 60 years old can apply at the Onondaga County Department of Social Services, County Office Building, 7th floor, at 600 S. State St. in Syracuse between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Those who received benefits last year can apply online at http://www.ongov.net/DSS/heap.html, or call 315-435-8295. Benefit eligibility charts are available online as well.

Those who are over 60 years old or are disabled may contact the Department of Aging and Youth at 315-435-2362. To apply in person please visit them at 421 Montgomery St. in Syracuse. For more information, visit http://www.ongov.net/Aging_and_Youth/HEAP.html.

The Assembly continues to fight for more assistance, because itís important that all eligible Onondaga residents have access to help if needed. No one should be left out in the cold this winter.