Home heating aid in New York could be more accessible under proposed law

John W. Mannion

Originally published in Spectrum News

As energy are expected to spike this winter season, state lawmakers are considering ways of providing some relief to New Yorkers. And that includes making it easier to access the relief itself. 

Demcoratic state Sen. John Mannion this month proposed a bill that is meant to reduce friction in applying for the Home Energy Assistance Program. 

The measure would automaticlaly re-enroll eligible people into the program each year rather than having them re-apply for the benefits every year. The proposal is the latest measure from state lawmakers meant to reduce heating costs or make it easier to pay their bills as prices are increasing heading into the cold-weather months. 

“With utility companies warning that home heating bills could rise seventeen to forty percent this winter, it is a matter of public health, safety, and a moral obligation to ensure eligible New Yorkers continue to receive HEAP benefits without interruption," Mannion said. "Legislation requiring a uniform, automatic, re-enrollment standard for eligible individuals will ensure no household falls through the cracks. Together, with legislation I’m sponsoring to create a new middle-income HEAP tier – I am advancing a legislative home heating assistance package that will bring relief and stability to the families that need it the most.” 

A version of the bill was previously proposed in the state Assembly by Democrat Billy Jones. 

More than one million people in New York receive regulat benefits under the program. And some families are already automatically re-enrolled in the program if they are qualified based on their existing enrollment in programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Social Security. 

Lawmakers have already proposed measures meant to reduce the home heating burden this year, including plans to make it easier to access propane in an emergency and giving lawmakers the ability to approve energy rate hikes.