REGION — On October 7, the New York State Public Service Commission warned consumers about what might be a long and cold winter to come. Electricity and gas bills were likely to be higher …
REGION — On October 7, the New York State Public Service Commission warned consumers about what might be a long and cold winter to come. Electricity and gas bills were likely to be higher statewide compared to last winter, said the commission.
Wherever heating bills end up, a number of programs on both sides of the Delaware River exist to help residents stay warm and safe throughout the winter.
On the eastern side of the Delaware, heating support comes from the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a statewide program administered in Sullivan County by the county’s department of family services.
The regular HEAP benefit offers one-time payments on behalf of households who are struggling to pay their heating costs. Benefits are paid directly to the vendor who provides each household with heat. Eligibility and the size of benefits provided are determined by a number of factors, including income, household size and the presence of household members who younger than six, older than 60 or permanently disabled.
Rosemary Wolff, coordinator of HEAP for Sullivan County, says that those eligibility requirements aren’t as strict as they might seem. ”More families than I think realize would be eligible.” She adds that HEAP helps thousands already in Sullivan County.
Besides the regular benefit, HEAP also provides a number of auxiliary programs.
The emergency HEAP benefit helps households who face a heating crisis, including an imminent shut-off of electric or natural gas heat or a lack of deliverable fuel, by paying vendors directly to restore service or provide fuel.
Starting this month, HEAP offers heating equipment repair and replacement benefits, helping eligible homeowners repair or replace malfunctioning heating equipment, and the “Clean and Tune” benefit, supporting minor repairs and improvements to keep household heating systems up and running.
And for households with gas and/or electricity utility arrears, HEAP has a new program, the Regular Arrears Supplement benefit, which can pay off up to $10,000 worth of arrears per applicant household.
Over on the western side of the Delaware, heating assistance is provided statewide through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
Households struggling to pay their heating bills can apply to LIHEAP for assistance, with LIHEAP providing cash grants based on household size, income and type of fuel required.
In situations of more immediate need—broken heating equipment, lack of fuel, notice of imminent termination of utility services—households can apply for additional assistance through the LIHEAP crisis program.
The Wayne County Redevelopment Authority (WCRA) administers some LIHEAP services for households in Wayne and Pike counties, according to the authority’s financial and office administrator, Lori Hiller.
On September 1, the WCRA began partnering with local contractors to provide “clean and tune” services to households that received LIHEAP crisis grants the previous winter season, aiming to do preventative maintenance that would keep those households from experiencing a heating crisis.
The WCRA also administers LIHEAP’s crisis grant program, from November 1 to mid-April. When the department of human services gets a call from a resident in the Wayne or Pike area requesting emergency crisis assistance, it refers that call to the WCRA, which can then send a contractor out to make the necessary repairs.
And toward the end of the season, says Hiller, the authority uses leftover LIHEAP funds together with Department of Energy funding to implement its Wayne/Pike Weatherization Program. The program helps low-income households reduce their energy costs by retrofitting homes with energy efficient installations.
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