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NYSOFA highlights winter energy assistance fairs, cold weather tips, emergency resources for older adults and their caregivers


Thu, Nov 30th 2023 07:55 pm

Winter assistance event coming to Amherst on Dec. 9

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) announced a series of winter energy fairs in December that provide an opportunity for individuals to get help with programs related to energy affordability, weatherization, energy efficiency, and services for older adults. Additionally, NYSOFA highlights resources that are available to help ensure the safety of older adults – and all New Yorkers – during the winter months.

NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said, “As winter starts, it’s vital that older New Yorkers and their caregivers are aware of resources available to combat winter safety risks. The consequences of cold weather can be serious and deadly for individuals with a chronic illness or living in an unsafe environment. Check in on your family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are safe during a time of increased social isolation in winter months.”

Upcoming Winter Energy Fairs

New York state agencies and local partners are hosting a series of upcoming winter energy fairs where individuals can learn more about wintertime assistance that is available for income-eligible New Yorkers. The fairs will highlight programs to help pay home heating bills, weatherization programs, emergency assistance for individuals at risk of running out of fuel or having their utility service shut off, and other winter assistance. The fairs will also highlight programs and services for older adults such as nutrition, transportation, and other community-based supports provided through offices for the aging.

Locally, a fair will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Amherst Public Library,
350 John James Audubon Parkway.

For more information about the fairs and general winter preparedness information, visit https://dps.ny.gov/winter.

Regular HEAP Benefits

Lower-income New Yorkers may be eligible for regular (non-emergency) Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits to help pay for heating your home. Eligibility and benefits are based on income, household size, the primary heating source, and the presence of a household member who is under age 6, age 60 or older, or permanently disabled. Benefits opened Nov. 1.

Emergency HEAP Benefits

Individuals facing a home-heating emergency may be eligible for assistance. The emergency benefit opens Jan. 2, 2024, and is available for low-income older adults and other New Yorkers whose home heating is either shut off or scheduled to be shut off, as well as for individuals who are running out of home heating fuel or other deliverable heat sources.

For general information on HEAP benefits, visit otda.ny.gov/HEAP.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “As the cold weather sets in, we know that tens of thousands of households, including some of our most vulnerable residents, count on HEAP to help them get through these difficult winter months. HEAP is a critical resource for New York residents, including older adults who need financial assistance to keep their homes warm. I encourage all within the income guidelines to apply for HEAP assistance.”

Reporting a Dangerous Living Condition

A press release stated, “Neglect (including self-neglect) is the most prevalent form of elder abuse. It can include being deprived of enough food, water or heat. If you are concerned about an older adult's living situation during the winter months and are unable to assist, you can call Adult Protective Services at 1-844-697-3505 or contact the local social services department’s Adult Protective Service bureau using the directory here.

“New Yorkers concerned about the safety of an older adult at home can also contact their county office for the aging using the online directory or contact the NY Connects helpline at 1-800-342-9871.”

Space Heaters and Supplemental Heat Safety

Unattended, improperly vented or malfunctioning space heaters can pose a major risk. Below are tips to help use these supplemental heat sources safely. NYSOFA said:

√ If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure there is adequate ventilation to the outside. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home.

√ Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat your home.

√ Follow all safety precautions when using wood stoves, space heaters, electric heaters, kerosene heaters, and pellet stoves.

√ Now is a good time to test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms – and to do so at least monthly. Be sure to also replace batteries at least once a year and replace alarms that are 10 years or older.

For additional safety information, see the supplemental space heaters guide developed by the New York State Department of Health.

Additionally, NYSOFA produced a series of how-to videos that walk through the process of filling out applications for some of the most common benefits like Medicare, HEAP, Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC), the NY School Tax Relief (STAR) Program and SNAP food assistance. View the how-to videos on NYSOFA’s website.

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