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Hochul announces availability of $65 million in federal emergency home heating aid


Wed, Feb 23rd 2022 03:30 pm

Second round of emergency home heating aid available for struggling households facing heating emergencies amid statewide surge in energy costs

√ More than $25 million in emergency assistance distributed since Jan. 3

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $65 million in funding remains available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers avoid having their home heating disconnected, or exhausting their heating source amid fuel price increases this winter. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Home Energy Assistance Program is now accepting second emergency benefit applications for those New Yorkers who have used up their regular and first emergency benefits and are facing a heating emergency.

"Energy prices remain at sky-high levels, putting a tremendous burden on struggling New Yorkers trying to pay their energy bills during these cold winter months," Hochul said. "With just a few more weeks of winter left, this second round of emergency assistance will provide critical relief for low- and middle-income households, helping New Yorkers in need when the temperatures dip to frigid levels."

Income qualifying households that have exhausted the available regular HEAP benefit and the first emergency benefit may now apply for a second round of assistance, provided they are facing either a heating utility shutoff, or an electric utility service disconnection that will impact their primary heating equipment. Also qualifying are households that have exhausted their heating fuel supply or have less than one quarter of a tank of oil, kerosene or propane; or that have less than a 10-day supply of other heating fuels.

Demand for heating assistance through HEAP has been high so far this winter season. More than 1.4 million regular benefits totaling $212 million have been issued since the program opened in October, with an additional 28,000 emergency benefits totaling $25 million provided since Jan. 3.

OTDA Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, "With the ongoing demand for HEAP, there's no question that a greater number of New Yorkers are struggling to heat their homes this winter. We encourage all eligible New Yorkers to tap this important program in order to keep their homes adequately heated until the winter weather abates."

Public Service Commission Chairman Rory M. Christian said, "I applaud Gov. Hochul for her commitment to help consumers facing surging energy prices to heat their homes. This funding comes at a critical time of the year. Winter isn't over, nor are high energy bills, and this assistance will go a long way to help consumers in need."

New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, "This new round of emergency heating assistance is vital for older adults and all New Yorkers on fixed incomes who are struggling with the high price of keeping their home warm this winter. I applaud the governor's continued and steadfast efforts to help vulnerable New Yorkers make ends meet. If you or a loved one are having difficulty paying for heat, please reach out for help today."

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke said, "It is essential every New Yorker has access to safe sources of heat throughout the cold winter months. Thanks to the leadership rooted in humanity of the Hochul administration, $65 million in resources is now available to ensure low- and middle-income families don't have to face hardships from rising electric or gas bills. These funds will keep costs down for folks who need the support, and keep their heat on when it's needed. And, the long-reaching effects of this emergency aid means that families will be safe at night, and I am truly grateful for it. Through funding like this and legislation like my Safer Heat Act, we are ensuring the right of every New Yorker to have safe heating in their homes."

To qualify, applicants must meet HEAP eligibility criteria and income guidelines, which vary by household size. For instance, a family of four may have a maximum gross monthly income of $5,249 or an annual gross income of $62,983.

Last fall, the New York Public Service Commission projected increases in supply prices this winter, with the cost of natural gas – used both to heat homes and generate electricity – rising sharply, and sometimes more than doubling the cost of the supply component of customer electric and/or natural gas bills. These bill increases are being driven by a global increase in natural gas commodity prices due to higher domestic usage resulting from colder-than-normal weather, increased economic activity, and increased international demand.

In response to the anticipated spike in energy prices, the emergency benefit amount per household was increased by at least 32%, and upward of 42%, depending on the type of heating fuel used for the household. The period to apply for both the regular and emergency benefit was also extended to April 29.

In October, Hochul announced $373 million for home heating aid to assist New Yorkers during cold weather months; and since Jan. 3, more than $25 million in emergency assistance has been distributed to New Yorkers. This February, Hochul announced $65 million in funding remains available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers avoid having their home heating disconnected or exhausting their heating source amid fuel price increases in the third month of winter.

Additionally, back in November, Hochul launched a digital media campaign designed to raise awareness of the various state programs available to help struggling New Yorkers pay heating and utility expenses to avoid potential service interruptions during the cold weather months. The campaign also provides tips and best practices to help contend with higher-than-average home heating costs.

Applications for assistance are accepted at local departments of social services in person or by telephone, with funding provided on a first-come, first-served basis. A list of local offices by county can be found here. Residents outside of New York City may also apply online for regular heating assistance benefits. New York City residents may download an application and obtain program information here.

Since the fall, the state Department of Public Service has been conducting outreach to alert the public of projected cost increases this winter. Last month, the agency conducted a series of virtual workshops with other state agencies to publicize financial assistance programs such as HEAP; utility energy affordability programs; weatherization measures; and other actions consumers can take to be energy efficient.

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