White House efforts to cover winter heating bills: What it means for the Capital Region

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Biden Administration distributed another $4.5 billion in funds Thursday to help low-income Americans cover heating costs this winter, with the most money being distributed to cold-weather states. New York State is set to receive nearly $900 million in funding, a welcome contribution for Capital Region residents who have recently seen an increase in the cost of living.

In the past decade, a new report from Filterbuy found the Albany cost of living rose 16.6%– ranked the 17th largest increase in medium sized metropolitan areas during that time period. Housing is one of the most expensive of these costs, up nearly six percent from the national average.

The Biden Administration’s proposed funding boost comes as part of last year’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief program. Nationwide, it will more than double the normal funding level of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

President Joe Biden’s Administration also announced commitments from seven major utility companies across the country to guarantee no shutoffs for customers seeking assistance and to identify and notify recipients eligible for government aid. In the Capital Region, several utilities companies- like National Grid- have made similar pledges in the past year.

National Grid’s pandemic commitments:

  • Paused residential disconnections and fees, late payment charges and collections activities, offering more flexible paying plans
  • Consumer Advocates provided crisis intervention support for customers, working closely with county Social Services and community assistance organizations.
  • Donated nearly $1 million across New York State to support hunger and pandemic relief.

For those living in a residential home instead of an apartment, cost of living increases were even higher- and the proposed allocation of funds from the Biden Administration will lessen this burden as well. Residential heating oil prices are up about 40% from a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The aid is meant to help cushion the shock of higher winter energy costs. Capital Region residents fearing loss of power or heat supply today can apply for the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP. HEAP, also known as fuel assistance, is a federal grant that is applied directly to the bill of income eligible customers. In Albany County, HEAP inquiries may be directed to the Department of Social Services at 162 Washington Avenue or by calling (518) 447-7323.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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