Golden Joins Senate Passage Of Legislation To Provide Additional Heap Funds

Martin J. Golden

January 23, 2006

Albany- State Senator Marty Golden today joined with his colleagues in the New York State Senate in passing legislation to provide an additional $100 million in emergency funds for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to ensure that seniors and low-income New Yorkers are able to afford to heat their homes this winter.

The agreement adds a legislative commitment of $50 million to the $50 million increase proposed for the program by the Executive. Under the $100 million Legislative agreement, the appropriation would prevent the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s anticipated shutdown of the program in March and would allow for additional HEAP benefits to seniors and other low-income New Yorkers.

The appropriation could also be used to ensure that the program has adequate funds for additional emergency grants, which prevent senior and low-income households from having their electricity or gas shut off due to an inability to pay.

"Passing this legislation marks the first time that the Legislature and the Executive have committed additional state funding to this very important and highly successful federal program. At a time when our energy prices have been soaring, these added dollars could not have come at a better time," said Senator Marty Golden. "With a good part of our winter still before us, the addition of New York State’s $100 million will go a long way in protecting our most vulnerable residents, who otherwise might not be able to afford to pay for heating fuel.

Senator Golden continued, "As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, I applaud the action taken
today that will insure that for many more of New York's senior citizens, the Home Energy Assistance Program will be available to them to meet their needs. I have seen seniors sacrifice meals in order to pay for prescription drugs, and now, I am sure as the cost of home heating rises, these same senior citizens are doing the same thing in order to pay their energy bills. We can do better than that for our senior citizens here in New York State."

This state action is necessary because Congress recently cut HEAP funding to New York by $15 million. HEAP applications in New York State have risen by as much as 25 percent and with the number of estimated eligible households at more than two million, the number of applicants to the program are expected to increase even further. Home heating oil prices in New York State are up by 21 percent over last year and 60 percent over two years ago. Natural gas prices have also shot up in similar fashion. At the same time, HEAP grants have remained flat.

Last year, the HEAP program had approximately 848,000 beneficiaries in New York State. According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, eligible households that pay directly for heat receive a HEAP benefit amount ranging from $150 to $400 and eligible households that do not pay directly for heat receive a standard statewide benefit of $40 or $50, depending on income level.

HEAP eligibility in New York is based on household size and income. For example, gross monthly income for a household of two must be at or below $2,358 and for a household of four must be at or below $3,468.

Federal HEAP dollars also pay for administrative costs and fund the weatherization program that improves energy efficiency in eligible households. The size of the benefit varies by type of heating source, size of household, income and whether a young child or a disabled or elderly person is present.