Gunther: Assembly Passes Bill to Help Working Families with High Cost of Heating Bills

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) announced today that the Assembly passed a bill expanding the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to help offset high energy costs that have directly affected senior citizens and working families (A.9281).

“Unfortunately, the recent spikes in energy costs has forced many New Yorkers to sacrifice basic needs in order to heat their homes,” Gunther said. “This legislation is needed to help make sure HEAP grants are available for those who need it most.”

Federal funding to New York for the HEAP program – which helps low income seniors and families pay for heating costs – has already gone down by $15 million. HEAP is currently funded solely by federal funds. Under the bill, the state will now contribute $200 million to the current program -- that means nearly $5 million more would be available to families in Orange and Sullivan counties.

People heating their homes with oil saw prices per gallon rise 21 percent over the last year and 60 percent over two years. Natural gas prices are up a similar amount. However, while grant amounts have remained flat, HEAP applications are up by 10 to 25 percent this year, and considering that the numbers of eligible households are increasing, even more applications are anticipated.

The Assembly also passed a resolution urging Congress to step up and increase the amount of HEAP aid to New York (K.1211).

“The federal government needs to wake up and see that its energy policy is inadequate,” Gunther said. “Working families and senior citizens living on fixed incomes can’t wait for the federal government to intervene. I urge the Senate to act on this important legislation by January 17th so we can provide immediate relief.”

Questions regarding the HEAP program should be directed to County Social Services Offices or to the NYS HEAP Hotline at (800) 342-3009. Orange County Social Services: 291-4000; Sullivan County Social Services: 292-0100.