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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

H.E.A.P. Program Provides Assistance for Low-Income Households This Winter Season

By | Business

SARATOGA SPRINGS - As winter draws near, residents are starting to pile up the wood stocks in their yards, dust out the old fireplace, and give their heating systems a few trial runs. The cold weather usually means it’s time to get out the candy canes, blankets, and roast marshmallows in front of the fireplace for some cozy family time in the living room. But winter also means higher heating bills and fuel costs, and for those with lower incomes, the cold weather just means there are more bills to pay.


Luckily, NY State offers a program that could help out people who don’t have the monetary means to stay warm this winter: The Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP. This is a federally funded program that offers heating benefits to help lower a household’s annual energy cost for eligible low-income New Yorkers.

Eligibility and benefits are based on the individual’s income, household size, primary heating source and the presence of a household member who is either under the age of six or over the age of 60, or permanently disabled. Regular HEAP benefits for households that pay directly for heat based on actual usage are paid directly to the vendor that supplies the household's primary source of heat, according to the government website.

Benefit amounts vary for individuals based on the way they pay their heating bills. For households that live in government subsidized housing or individuals that have heating costs included as part of their rent can receive as little as $1 up to $25, while those whose primary heat use is oil, kerosene, or propane and who make direct payments to the vendor for heating costs can receive up to $600 plus applicable add-ons. Households whose primary heat is wood, coal or other deliverable fuel can receive up to $500, and those whose primary heat is through natural gas or electricity can obtain up to $400.

Regular HEAP benefits aren’t the only advantage of the program. HEAP also offers help with repairing or replacing heating equipment for homeowners who need to repair or replace furnaces, boilers and other direct heating components necessary to keep the home's primary heating source functional. These benefit amounts are based on the actual cost incurred to replace or repair the applicants' broken heating appliances.

 Finally, there is a HEAP Emergency Benefit program for those who may be facing a heat-related emergency but don’t have the immediate money to pay for it. The following can be qualified as an “emergency”: Your electricity is necessary for your heating system or thermostat to work and is either shut-off or scheduled to be shut off; your electric or natural gas heat is off or is scheduled to be shut-off; you are out of fuel, or you have less than one quarter tank of fuel oil, kerosene or propane or have less than a 10 day supply of wood, wood pellets, corn, or other deliverable heat source; or your essential heating equipment is inoperable for some reason. There are several other qualifications one must meet in order to apply and receive the emergency benefits, all of which are listed on the program’s website.


National Grid Keeps Up with Technology for Storm Alerts This Winter

The Saratoga Springs region was lucky to miss the brunt of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive forces, but everyone should stay prepared for large storms as the winter season begins. National Grid is offering several ways for New Yorkers to stay up-to-date on information about power outages and safety tips for future storms that may come.

The company is now offering broadcast text messages, a mobile-friendly website for those wishing to visit the site on their smartphones, and Facebook and Twitter pages. You can now sign up for text message alerts by texting the word “STORM” to NGRID (numbers 64743). You can also opt out of those message alerts any time by texting the word STOP to the same number. Safety and outage information is now also available on your mobile phone via their web browser at www.nationalgrid.com. The company also updates their information on their social network sites: You can “like” them on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nationalgrid or their Twitter page at www.twitter.com/nationalgridus. Power outages can be reported online or by calling 1-800-867-5222.

The National Grid website also has a map that lists the power outages throughout the state that have been detected by the company. It’s a great feature for those who want to see how badly their area has been affected, or to see if the company even knows that there is a power outage in their area yet so they can report it. Be sure to keep these resources in mind as Saratoga County heads into another winter season.

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