ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – While the recent trend of milder weather suggesting otherwise, winter is right around the corner, and with it will come higher heating bills. Tuesday marked the beginning of the application process for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which can help eligible New Yorkers keep their heat on.

“We do expect it to be a challenging winter for some of our constituents,” said Michele McClave, Commissioner of the Albany County Department of Social Services.

National Grid anticipates a 39% increase in natural gas this winter, as well as a 22% uptick for electric. Heating oil costs are also up significantly since last year, with kerosene up more than 71% and heating oil north of 60%.

“Customers are struggling with their grocery bills, their gasoline bills, all of that stuff. We definitely are looking at the possibility that we could have more customers that are in need,” said Patrick Stella, spokesperson for National Grid.

But help is available. Eligible New Yorkers are now eligible to apply for HEAP, which can bring relief to those struggling to pay their heating bills, “We expect to have a significant number of applications again this year, last year was a record-breaking year,” McClave said.

Eligibility is determined by several factors, including gross monthly income. More information about whether or not your household is eligible based on income can be found on the state’s website about the program here.

“The income limits are fairly generous I think. That opens it up to a wider range of households,” said McClave.

On top of HEAP, there are also additional resources available to help with energy costs, including through National Grid.

“Reach out. A lot of customers don’t want to call us sometimes when they’re having problems, but we have consumer advocates in this area that work one-on-one with customers,” Stella said, also mentioning that HEAP qualification allows customers to receive additional resources from the company.

To keep costs down this winter, experts suggest lowering the heat by a degree, weatherizing windows and changing out your filters in an effort to increase energy efficiency.