ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A second round of assistance for people struggling to pay heating bills as the winter wages on was announced Wednesday. An additional $65 million in Federal Emergency Home Heating Aid will help households who qualify stay warm.
Government officials and energy experts warned that people could expect to see higher heating costs this winter due to multiple factors including supply, colder temperatures, and hurricanes in the south during early fall.
NEWS10 was contacted by a New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG) customer last week complaining of exponentially higher bills. The customer wasn’t alone, other NYSEG customers in a local Facebook group shared stories of similar increases. Some said they had gotten bills that were between two and four times higher than the previous month.
Head of Communication for Avangrid Networks, the company that owns NYSEG, Mike Jamison said customers were seeing higher bills because the cost of electricity is on the rise. In Europe prices of natural gas, used to create electricity, were up 500% he said.
Jamison said NYSEG worked to notify customers ahead of time that they might see higher bills over the winter. They have been working with customers burdened with higher bills, offering payment plans and helping them sign up for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
“Energy prices remain at sky-high levels, putting a tremendous burden on struggling New Yorkers trying to pay their energy bills during these cold winter months,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “With just a few more weeks of winter left, this second round of emergency assistance will provide critical relief for low- and middle-income households, helping New Yorkers in need when the temperatures dip to frigid levels.”
New Yorkers who applied for and already received benefits through HEAP are eligible to apply for additional money if they are facing a disconnection of utilities that would impact their ability to keep their residence heated. New Yorkers who are out of heating fuel, have less than one-quarter of a tank of oil, kerosene, propane, or less than a 10-day supply of another heating fuel are also eligible.
The Governor’s office said the need for help paying heating bills has been high this winter with $212 million in HEAP benefits given to families in need since the program opened in October. Since Jan. 3, $25 million more in benefits have been given out.
“This new round of emergency heating assistance is vital for older adults and all New Yorkers on fixed incomes who are struggling with the high price of keeping their home warm this winter,” said New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen.
New Yorkers can check their eligibility for HEAP on mybenefits.ny.gov. Applications for assistance can be filled out at local departments of social services in person or by telephone. Help is provided first-come, first-served.