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The Implementation and Effectiveness of New York's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).


To Ensure the Proper and Effective Disbursement of HEAP Funds.

Albany, New York
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
10:30 AM
Roosevelt Hearing Room C
Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor

The HEAP program was created to utilize available federal funds to assist low-income New Yorkers who struggle to pay winter heating bills and often find themselves in energy crisis. Through the use of both a regular HEAP benefit and a HEAP emergency benefit, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, families with young children, and low-income families are eligible for financial assistance to assist with the payment of heating bills and assistance to avert the loss of critical utility service in the cold winter months.

Historically, the HEAP program has utilized only the funds made available by the federal government. Grant levels available under the program are set by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and have remained stagnant since the winter of 1999-2000. However, in the wake of this winter's dramatic spike in energy costs, the Legislature allocated an additional $100 million in state funds to augment the existing HEAP program. Recent data shows that home heating oil prices in New York State are up 21 percent from last year's prices and 60 percent from two years ago. While natural gas prices have also risen in a similar fashion, HEAP grant awards have remained flat. At the same time, HEAP applications in New York State have increased dramatically. The number of regular benefits granted to homeowners or renters who filed applications has risen to 183,148 this year, from 76,632 during the same period last year, an increase of 240 percent. Given these growing administrative burdens, some local social services districts have reported that they have not been able to process all applications in a timely manner even after working overtime. There is serious concern that the current structure of the HEAP program is not adequate to meet the significant increase in demand for energy assistance this winter.

The Executive's $50 million deficiency appropriation language which also binds the Legislature's $50 million addition for HEAP, would allow for increased base grant amounts and more than a single emergency grant per household. However, it is unclear whether the administering agency, the OTDA will exercise this power, despite the crisis situation facing thousands of New York families.

Furthermore, under the Governor's appropriation language, which Constitutional limitations prevent the Legislature from modifying, eligibility is cut off on April 15th, more than a full month earlier than last year's program. This hearing will examine the consequences to the State's most vulnerable residents of this early cut-off date. It is alarming that as of November 2005, there were over 600,000 New York families over 60 days late in their energy bills, and over 11,000 whose accounts had been terminated, even though the Public Service Commission reports that these numbers are down from 2004.

The Committees are interested in eliciting testimony regarding how the additional state funds should be used in order to render the HEAP program an effective source of assistance to vulnerable families and to prevent those families from facing energy crisis this winter and beyond.

Below is a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony. Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes' duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Assemblymember Paul D. Tonko
Chair, Committee on Energy

Assemblymember Deborah Glick
Chair, Committee on Social Services

Assemblymember Steve Englebright
Chair, Committee on Aging


  1. How has the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance directed local departments of social services to administer the additional HEAP funding? Have any changes been made to the existing program? Has a new plan for this money been submitted pursuant to the language in the appropriation?

  2. What are the barriers that local departments of social services face in administering the HEAP program? Are there additional activities that could be funded with the state appropriation for HEAP that would assist the local departments of social services in accurately processing both regular and emergency HEAP applications in a timely manner?

  3. HEAP benefits have remained flat over many years. What effect has that had on the value of available HEAP benefits? Are existing HEAP benefits adequate to ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers will not find themselves in energy crisis?

  4. What modifications should be made to the existing HEAP benefit structure with the funding provided by the Legislature to adequately assist low-income New Yorkers with their heating needs? Are there any barriers that would prevent the implementation of any such changes?

  5. What impact will closing the HEAP program on April 15, 2006 have on those eligible for HEAP benefits? What closing date would ensure that needy seniors and families receive the support required to avert energy crisis?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on The Implementation and Effectiveness of New York's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Jill Poklemba
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Social Services
Room 520 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: poklemJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on the additional $100 million for HEAP conducted by the Assembly Committees on Energy, Social Services and Aging on February 1, 2006.

box I plan to submit written testimony at the hearing. I will provide 15 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

box I do not plan to attend the above hearing.

box I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports.

box I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list.


I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information. Please specify the type of assistance required:








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