By Renata Stiehl
ELMIRA, NY (WENY) – A we head into the winter months, the cost to heat a home is expected to surge this year.
Federal funding is available to help low-income New York residents with their heating bills, including those in the Southern Tier.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Catholic Charities Samaritan Center in Elmira Tuesday afternoon, to announce the recent continuing resolution passed in Congress includes a billion dollars for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Of that, $60 million is coming to New York, and will help low-income residents offset the rising cost of keeping their homes heated this winter.
“A lot of families in Chemung county are worried about the cold weather coming, because they don’t have enough money to heat their homes. Unfortunately, because a lot of dynamics outside of the United States like the war in Ukraine, and OPEC’s decision to not produce more oil, prices are going to go up. And in Chemung County that could increase a much as 25 percent,” said Sen. Gillibrand.
“These are all tied together it’s not one piece. When you think of the buzzword of social determinants. If you don’t have heat you’re choosing between heat and food, maybe choosing between heat, food or shelter, and we already have so many people who are homeless. And coming into the cold season and that’s just so sad to see people struggling with those issues. So I want people to take advantage of this whenever possible,” said Chemung County Commissioner of Human Services, Brian Hart.
Local support agencies like the Chemung County Department of Social Services, and Office for the Aging can help eligible households apply for heating assistance. Hart said this federal funding coming to New York will go a long way for families who may otherwise have to make hard choices between paying their utility bills, or buying food.
“It’s definite a need in these difficult times, and more people are finding themselves choosing where do they use their limited resources, and we don’t want it to be on heat,” Hart said.
With gas prices and inflation already straining budgets, local agencies like the Food Bank of the Southern Tier are already seeing increased demand ahead of the winter, which is only likely to grow as people grapple with higher heating bills.
“Right now this year we’re seeing in increase in demand, compared to the same time last year. We’re seeing around 30% increase, which is significant – I have not seen that level of increase since the 2008 recession,” said Food Bank of the Southern Tier President and CEO, Natasha Thompson. “A lot of that has to do with the sun-setting of a lot of government support, child tax credit obviously, universal school meals, pandemic unemployment benefits, and so on. And couple with inflation, right? The challenging economic situation that we have, in creasing gas price, and general increase in prices overall.”
Thompson said the LIHEAP funding will help ease the burden on families already making tough choices, and will ultimately have a trickle-down effect on food pantries in the network served by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.
“The Food Bank is positioned to do what we can to meet those needs, but I think government programs like LIHEAP for example go a long way to help reduce demand on the emergency food network,” Thompson explained.
According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, eligible HEAP applicants can receive one regular HEAP benefit benefit per program year. The benefit period is set to open on November 1, 2022.
Eligibility is based on income, household size, primary heating source, and the presence of a household member younger than six, 60 or older, or permanently disabled.
The benefit is paid directly to the vendor that supplies the household’s primary source of heat. Benefit amounts range on the living situation.
To find a local HEAP contact near you, click here.