CHENANGO COUNTY — The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) will begin accepting applications for the 2022-23 season on Tuesday, November 1. The program aims to assist low-income households with their immediate heating needs, whether they heat their homes with gas, oil, electric, wood pellets, coal, or even corn.
Eligibility is based on monthly gross income and household size. For example, a household of one person must make under $2,852 per month to be eligible for HEAP benefits. A household of two must make under $3,730 per month, and so on.
After applications are processed, eligible households will receive a one-time payment that goes directly to their heating provider.
"It does not go to the individual. So if they heat with oil it goes right to Mirabito. If they heat with wood they have to choose a wood vendor that is accepted under New York State as a HEAP vendor. They can’t just buy wood from a friend and we pay the friend. If they heat with electric it either goes to NYSEG or Sherburne Electric, Greene Electric," explained Chenango County Department of Social Services (DSS) Head Social Welfare Examiner Patricia Hodge.
Benefits will vary depending on the method of heating. Households that use oil, kerosene, or propane will receive a minimum of $900; those that heat with wood pellets, coal, or corn will receive a minimum of $635; and homes heated by electric will receive a minimum of $400.
Households in which at least one member is a "vulnerable" — under six years old, over 60, or considered disabled — will receive an additional $35 to their benefit.
Those who received HEAP assistance last year should have gotten a renewal form in the mail, which must be completed and returned to get a HEAP benefit again this year, according to Hodge. She added benefits will not be released until after the season begins on November 1.
Additionally, individuals receiving CASH or SNAP benefits will receive HEAP assistance automatically, as long as they have an eligible heating vendor on file.
Individuals applying for HEAP benefits for the first time will be able to access applications beginning November 1. Applications can be completed online at MyBenefits.ny.gov, or by calling Chenango County DSS at 607-337-1500 to have an application mailed. Individuals 60 years or older can contact the Area Agency on Aging at 607-337-1770 to request an application or receive assistance completing it.
"Anyone who’s not on CASH assistance or SNAP benefits that's 60 years or older, or has anyone in the household that’s 60 years or older, we contract with the Area Agency on Aging. So they do the application, they do the interview, they gather the information, and the only thing they don’t get to do is push the final button and say it’s approved," Hodge explained. "Once we get their paper stuff we go into the computer, look up that case briefly ... and then we just push the button to approve it."
Last year, Chenango County DSS had 14,000 households receive HEAP benefits, and they anticipate similar numbers this year. The department does not hire on additional staff during HEAP season, meaning it is a busy time for staff as they must process applications on top of their regular duties.
After an application for HEAP assistance is received by DSS, the department has 30 business days to process the application. Hodge urges applicants to be patient, as phone calls to check on the status of their application slows down the process.
"We do encourage people, once the HEAP program starts, not to call just to check on their case," she said. "Our phones are just tied up once HEAP starts, and most of it is, 'well I was just checking.' And it’s like, well you realize that ‘just checking’ and that phone call took away processing time. So we do encourage them to be a little patient there."
Applications will be accepted for the entire duration of the HEAP season, which is usually set to conclude around mid-March. However, Hodge said in some years the state has extended the season to use up remaining funds.
Beginning on January 3, the state will also open up the Emergency HEAP Program, which is based on both income and resource guidelines. Hodge said guidelines for the emergency program have not yet been released by the state.
Those in need of heating appliance repairs or replacement can also take advantage of the Heating Equipment Repair or Replacement Program (HERR), a facet of HEAP.
"That basically is for furnaces or whatever an individual heats with. So it could be a furnace, it could be a wood stove. So say they need their furnace repaired and they’re under the resource guidelines for that, we can help repair it if it’s reasonable, or if the company red tags it we can actually purchase a new furnace," said Hodge. "There are limits to how much the new furnace can be, but all the local vendors, they know all of that, if they were to call them."
Applications for HERR can be obtained by calling Chenango County DSS at 607-337-1587.
More information on the HEAP and HERR programs can be found at otda.ny.gov/programs/heap.