NY Gov Cuomo Announces $328 Million for Home Heating Aid
When the COVID-19 outbreak reared its ugly head back in late March, states across the country began to institute stay-at-home orders to help contain the virus. Many businesses shuttered, while others were forced to dramatically rework their operations. As a result, millions of workers were either furloughed, moved into part-time positions or remote work. Of course, this gave rise to significant cash flow problems for these workers and in many cases, business owners.
At the same time, advocates in the utility world began to call for moratoriums on utility shutoffs so that a lack of financial resources would not threaten a family’s ability to shelter in place safely as the economic crisis deepened. Utilities and service providers across the country accommodated, forestalling late fees and shutoffs for varying degrees of time.
Here’s the Problem
Now, utilities would like to start collecting on unpaid bills and many state policymakers are considering the demands of utilities by lifting previously imposed bans on utility shut-offs.
The problem is that the COVID-19 pandemic has not gone away. The number of cases is spiking once again, and cold weather is beginning to set in, sparking legitimate concern on the part of local governments, consumer advocates, and utility customers.
Meanwhile, millions remain unemployed as the COVID-related economic crisis worsens, and many families are still struggling to pay for necessities. These families across the country are facing difficult decisions since it is in both their interest and in the interest of public health to stay at home as new COVID-19 hot spots emerge.
Big State, Big Issues
Suffice it to say that states with large populations and large economies are facing significantly more problems in these areas than sparsely-populated or rural areas, giving rise to major challenges for the related state governments.
This week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that more than $328 million in home heating aid would be made available for low- and middle-income New York residents who need assistance in keeping their homes warm during the coming winter season.
“Cold weather brings yet another challenge for many New Yorkers already struggling to make ends meet during this unprecedented pandemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “This critical funding will help hundreds of thousands of them manage the cost of heating their homes and apartments as autumn brings in cooler temperatures and winter approaches.”
Eligible homeowners and renters will be able to receive the assistance of up to $741 through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). In New York, this program is overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, depending on income, household size, and how the home is heated.
Earlier this year, Cuomo signed legislation extending a moratorium preventing utility companies from disconnecting utilities to residential households struggling with bills due to the pandemic. According to the directive, utility companies must offer these customers deferred payment agreements on any past due balances.
Where to Get Help
New Yorkers can apply for assistance at local departments of social services in person or by telephone, with funding provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents outside of New York City may also apply online for regular heating assistance benefits. New York City residents may download an application and obtain program information here.
According to the governor’s office website, “Last year, more than 1.6 million homeowners and renters throughout the state received heating aid through HEAP. Among them were more than 530,000 households with a family member 60 or older, totaling roughly $98 million in heating assistance for elderly New Yorkers.” New Yorkers who receive HEAP assistance this season and continue to fall behind on their utility bills or are running short on heating fuel may also qualify for a one-time emergency HEAP benefit. Applications for emergency benefits will be accepted starting on Monday, Jan. 4.