Washington County residents who need financial help getting through the heating season can expect less assistance in the face of cuts to funding, the program’s director said.
One day after the Nov. 16 program start for the 2011-2012 season Washington County Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) Supervisor Paula Reid said residents could expect a steep cut in the benefit that helps elderly and low-income families keep warm during the winter.
“The federal government reduced our HEAP allotment from $93 million to $52 million this year statewide,” Reid said.
According to the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance 1.3 million New Yorkers received some benefits from this program last year alone.
Reid said the program remains income based.
The eligibility rose slightly this year, about $7 (to $1,180) for level one and $17 (to $2,146) for level two for a single person household.
The federally funded program started in 1980 provides grant money based on income to help needy families pay for heating fuels from propane and heating oil to electricity and even wood.
Reid said the maximum a recipient could receive in 2010 was $700, however, due to the cuts, that amount is now $500.
Other changes include the later opening and earlier closing dates.
Previously the program began in early November and continued through to April, now the program will start in mod-November and end in March or when the money runs out.
Reid said the program also has a later opening date for eligibility for the emergency grants with that portion of the heating program unavailable until Jan. 3.
The funding reduction will be felt in a number of ways.
“The impact is last year $700 would get you close to a fill-up. This year at $500 you’re not even getting half because of fuel costs,” Reid said. “It’s a double whammy; they have less money to buy costlier fuel.”
The program seeks to assist vulnerable populations, typically 50 percent of those taking advantage of the program are elderly, Reid said.
The most important message HEAP users need to receive is be cautious and conserve.
“As far as information going out your the readers, I’d say if you use HEAP don’t allow yourself to run out of fuel. Delivery fees for off route or emergencies can be $65 or $125 and they come right off the top of the grant,” Reid said. “It’s really critical for people who use the program to watch their tanks so they can get the most for their HEAP dollars.”
Reid said the fees were “understandable” but added if people plan they don’t have to pay those fees and with an average fuel price at $3.71 per gallon, paying a $125 fee means losing about 33 gallons of fuel oil.
Reid said recommendations for stretching those fuel dollars include keeping the thermostat turned down to 60-65 degrees, dressing in layers at home and using more blankets on the bed at night.
“People need to conserve as much as possible because at this point and time the money just is not there,” Reid said.
source: Washington County HEAP 2010 report
A common myth is that HEAP will pay for all of your fuel needs for the winter months. The fact is that HEAP pays for only a portion of a family’s heating needs and must be supplemented by other income in the household.
HEAP Grant Statistics
2008 2009 2010
Regular HEAP Households 4,617 4,037 4,733
HEAP energy payments
made on behalf of $2,170,789 $2,117,673 $2,491,393
Washington Co. residents
Number of Furnace
Repair/Replacements 51 75 55
Cost (of Repair/Replacement) $75,265 $158,431 $114,220
Avg. numberHEAP Cases 2,436 2,644 2,649
New Applications Registered 1,398 1,184 1,085