With nighttime temperatures now routinely dropping to freezing or colder, the state has launched its Home Energy Assistance Program to help financially struggling residents pay their fuel bills.
More than $325 million in funding is available this season to help elderly and low- and moderate-income New Yorkers heat their homes.
The HEAP program saw participation drop last winter – one of the mildest in recent years. Officials at the state Office of Temporary and Disabilities Assistance think that trend will continue this season.
“We think it was in part due to the economy recovering, but the mild winter also may have been a factor,” said Tim Ruffinen, spokesman for the office.
“We think we’ll see less applications than last year,” he said.
The economic recovery will continue to be a factor, he predicted, and weather will also impact demand.
“Most meteorologists are saying it will be another mild winter, with spikes of cold,” he said.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and National Grid have each predicted slightly lower heating fuel prices for this winter.
Total HEAP spending was $364 million in the winter of 2015-16, but Ruffinen said total funding is going to be down this winter.
The program is entirely federally funded.
“No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their heating bill,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement announcing the start of the HEAP program earlier this month. “This critical program helps seniors and hard-working New Yorkers cover the high cost of heat during the cold winter months.”
Eligible households can receive a one-time benefit of up to $626, depending on income, household size and heating source. A family of four can qualify for help through the program if it has a household annual income of up to $53,076, or $4,423 a month.
Last winter, more than 1.4 million households received assistance, but that was a drop of more than 75,000 households from the previous winter.
In the Capital Region, there were 65,538 households that received aid last winter, down from 70,467 in 2014-15.
In the Mohawk Valley, total participation was 45,481 households, down from 49,998 the winter before.
Anyone living outside New York City can apply for a regular Home Energy Assistance benefit online at myBenefits.ny.gov. Applications are also taken through local departments of social services.
Households may also qualify for an emergency benefit if they are at risk of getting their heat shut off or running out of fuel.
Applications for emergency benefits will be accepted beginning Jan. 3. Anyone in need of emergency assistance should contact their local department of social services.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County