CAPITAL REGION -- The state will make an additional $15 million available to New Yorkers who qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and are facing a heating emergency, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.
The money became availableTuesday to about 35,000 households around the state that are already enrolled in the HEAP program. It is available to households that have already used their regular and emergency HEAP benefits but are in danger of running out of heating oil or having their utilities shut off, Cuomo said. The deadline to apply for HEAP benefits was also extended through April 26.
The winter, while it has had mild periods, has also seen extended periods of below-zero temperatures in many areas of the state, Cuomo said. He said statewide demand for HEAP assistance has been high, and energy prices are also higher in many parts of the state this winter.
In Albany, the National Weather Service has recorded several sub-zero nights this winter, but overall, January averaged 0.7 degrees above the historic average for the month, and February so far has averaged 29 degrees, or 4.2 degrees above normal.
"There have been a lot of ups and downs," said weather service meteorologist Christina Speciale in Albany.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority reported that, in heating-degree days -- a measure of the energy needed to heat a home -- this winter in the Albany area is about on par with last winter.
NYSERDA data through Feb. 12 shows that home heating oil averages $2.94 per gallon in the Capital Region, down 5 cents from a year ago. However, in most of the rest of the state, prices are higher than they were last winter.
Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said the county still has emergency funding available from the first round of funding, so officials don't yet know whether the county will benefit from the additional funding.
"If people are in need, there is this emergency funding available," McQueen said. "It's nice knowing we have that second round, but hopefully, it may not be needed."
The amount a household receives from HEAP depends on the household's income, size and type of heating used. A family of four can have income of up to $55,0178 per year, or $4,598 per month, and still qualify for HEAP benefits.
The HEAP program is entirely federally funded and is overseen by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Applications are taken through the county departments of Social Services and Offices for the Aging. The state's initial federal allocation for HEAP this winter was $372 million.
"These additional HEAP resources are extremely important to low-income, older New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their heating bills during this cold winter," said state Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen.