Kingston – Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill (D - Ulster, Dutchess) announced the opening of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that provides heating benefits to help households meet their monthly energy expenses. Enrollment in the program begins tomorrow, two weeks later than previous years. The majority leadership in the House of Representatives is seeking to cut over $150 million of New York’s share of funding, leading to a great deal of uncertainty over how much money will be available for assistance.
“Far too many New Yorkers are forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families through the long, cold winter months due to skyrocketing fuel costs,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “New York has traditionally received a large share of LIHEAP funding due to the harsh winter weather in the Northeast and our greater reliance on volatile heating oil. The leadership in Congress needs to understand that their actions will put the lives of our most vulnerable residents at risk and they must take immediate action to restore the funding.”
In 2010-11, LIHEAP provided benefits to 1.4 million households, 32 percent of which were senior citizens. These are families and individuals making less that 60% of the state’s median income. Although the Federal Energy Information Administration is predicting that the cost of heating oil this winter will reach a record high, the leadership in the House of Representatives is looking to drastically reduce New York’s allotment. Of those receiving assistance in the state, 30 percent rely on a deliverable fuel, primarily oil, to heat their homes. New York is a prime beneficiary of the program and a bi-partisan coalition of the state’s Congressional delegation have come out against the proposed cuts to the program.
"Older New Yorkers spend a higher percentage of their household budget on their energy costs,” stated Lois Wagh Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. “Service terminations are also on the rise over the past few years. New Yorkers simply cannot afford to see LIHEAP funding cut at a time when so many are struggling to make ends meet."
Those who feel they will have trouble meeting energy costs this winter should contact their local social services office for information about eligibility and enrollment or visit www.mybenefits.ny.gov/ for an online assessment.
“LIHEAP is a valuable program that can provide assistance to many struggling families and seniors,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “New Yorkers should not have to break their budget or put their family at risk to pay for heating. I encourage all those who are having trouble making ends meet to apply for aid.”
Residents of Dutchess County should call the local Department of Social Services, located at 60 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, at (845) 486-3000 for more information. The Ulster County Department of Social Services is located at 1021 Development Court in Kingston and can be reached by phone at (845) 334-5436.