County warns funding cuts will bring big changes to HEAP this winter
St. Lawrence County is warning that significant changes are coming to HEAP, the Low Income Heating Assistance Program because of funding cuts.
Funding to New York State from the federal government is expected to be about $250 million, less than half of what the state got last year, $534.4 million.The county Department of Social Services says that the period during which regular and emergency HEAP payments will be available this coming heating season is scheduled to be two and a half months shorter than last year, and the amount of available assistance will be much less.
The regular HEAP benefit amounts are anticipated to decrease significantly this year from last year, the county DSS says. The regular benefit for oil, kerosene, and propane this year is calculated to be between $450 and $500. Last year, this benefit was between $600 and $700.
The regular HEAP benefit for St. Lawrence Gas, Massena Electric, and National Grid is calculated to be between $250 and $300 for this year. Last year, this benefit was between $400 and $500.
This year’s regular HEAP benefit for wood, pellets, and coal is to be between $250 and $300. Last year, this benefit was between $600 and $700.
This heating season, people who cut their own wood and need a HEAP benefit must either choose a wood vendor or have the HEAP benefit applied to their utility bill. In the past, people who cut their own wood could receive their regular benefits directly.
Emergency benefits also will be less. This year, the emergency HEAP benefit for oil, kerosene, and propane is calculated to be only $550. Last year, the possible emergency benefit was potentially as much as $1,300 because of a second emergency benefit. A second emergency benefit is not anticipated this year. Emergency benefits will be based on income, household size, and available resources.
HEAP may help with furnace or other heating equipment repair and replacement if an applicant owns and is living in a home needing assistance. Anyone interested in applying for heating equipment repair or replacement should contact the Department of Social Services at 379-2303 to set up an interview or request that an application be sent.
HEAP will not open this fall for regular benefits until Nov. 16. Last year, HEAP opened at the beginning of November. So, DSS says, they will not begin accepting regular applications for HEAP until Nov. 16 unless an applicant received an early application in September from the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance because of the presence of an elderly or vulnerable person in the household.
The emergency component of HEAP will not be open until Jan. 3. Last year, the emergency component opened at the beginning of November, at the same time as the regular component.
HEAP customers who receive regular fuel benefits in November will not be eligible to apply for an emergency fuel benefit until Jan. 3. HEAP customers who need electricity to run their furnaces and who receive a disconnect notice also will not be able to apply for the emergency benefit until Jan. 3.
The state has scheduled a HEAP closing date of March 16, 2012 for regular and emergency benefits.
The closing date for the heating equipment repair and replacement component has not been determined yet and will depend on available funding. The closing date for regular and emergency HEAP benefits at the end of the 2010-2011 heating season was May 13, almost two months later in the year than the anticipated closing date in 2012, and the heating equipment repair and replacement part of the program continued through the summer.
This coming heating season, eligible applicants may receive one regular benefit, one emergency fuel benefit, and one emergency electric benefit.
The income guidelines for the 2011-2012 heating assistance program are, for a household of one, maximum monthly income of $2,146; household size of two people, maximum monthly income of $2,806; three, $3,446; four, $4,127; five, $4,787; six, $5,447; seven, $5,571; eight, $ 5,695; nine, $5,818; household of 10, $5,942; and a household of 11 people, maximum monthly income of $6,136.
Households receiving Food Stamps or Public Assistance do not ordinarily need to complete a HEAP application.
If you need an application, you should call 379-2303 on or after Nov. 16. All applicants may apply this year through the mail. In addition to HEAP applications being available at the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services in Canton, applications are anticipated to be available at Catholic Charities in Ogdensburg, St. Vincent de Paul Society in Massena, the Neighborhood Center in Gouverneur, and the mybenefits.ny.gov website.