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MAKE OLD MAN WINTER YOUR FRIEND

We are now officially in the dead of winter.  As the effects of winter bring ever increasing utility bills and cold and drafty homes, it is comforting to know that there is some help available, especially for seniors, to cope with old man winter.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), administers a Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to people with low income to assist with paying the cost of heating their homes.

HEAP is available for households that heat their home with electricity, natural gas, oil, coal, propane, wood/wood pellets, kerosene or corn.  Eligibility and the amount of benefits are based upon your income, household size, the primary heating source and the presence of a household member who is under age 6, over age 60 or permanently disabled.  You and your household members must be U.S. citizens or qualified aliens and your household gross monthly income must be at or below the current income guidelines for your household size as posted on a yearly basis by OTDA.

If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP), temporary assistance or receive Code A Supplemental Security Income (SSI), living alone, you will qualify.

If you are entitled to a regular benefit, that benefit will pay based upon your actual usage with such payment being made directly to the vendor that supplies the household with its primary source of heat.

If you are over 60, your base regular benefit will be increased by $25.00 for the 2019 – 2020 year.

Emergency HEAP benefits are permitted if electricity is necessary for your heating system or thermostat to work and such electricity is either shut off or scheduled to be shut off, your electric or natural gas heat is scheduled to be shut off or is shut off, or you are out of fuel or you have less than 1/4 tank of fuel oil, kerosene, or propane or less than a 10 day supply of wood, wood pellets, corn or other deliverable heat source.

In order to qualify for such emergency benefit, you must meet the income guidelines for the regular HEAP benefits, the heating or electric bill must be in your name, and your household available resources must be less than $3,000.00 if any member of your household is age 60 or older.

If you are a homeowner, you could also be eligible for the heating equipment repair and replacement benefit to help you repair or replace your furnace, boiler or other direct heating equipment necessary to keep your home’s primary heating source working.  Benefits are based on the actual cost incurred to repair or replace your furnace, boiler and/or other equipment with a limit of $3,000.00 for a repair and $6,500.00 for replacement.

Finally, you might be eligible for a clean and tune benefit which can include the cleaning of your primary heating equipment but could also include chimney cleaning, minor repairs, installation of carbon monoxide detectors or programmable thermostats if needed to allow for safe, proper and efficient operation of the heating equipment.  Benefit amounts are based upon the actual cost incurred to provide clean and tune services up to a maximum of $400.00.

To get more information on all of these benefits, you can go to the offices of OTDA website – http://OTDA.NY.gov/main/programs/HEAP.   In Orange County, you can apply for HEAP benefits at the Orange County Department of Social Services or the Orange County Office of Aging.  For other counties, you can check on the OTDA website.

For those seeking more long term solutions that will address heating costs, New York State has a Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) which can assist families and individuals to upgrade their homes to reduce heating and cooling costs and improve the value of their home.  The WAP is administered by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).  Program services are available based upon the same income eligible requirements as the HEAP program.

The WAP can fund energy efficiency measures performed through the program which include air sealing (weather stripping and caulking), attic and wall insulation, heating system improvements or replacements, energy efficiency improvements in lighting, hot water tank and pipe installation, and refrigerator replacements with highly efficient energy star rated units.

It has been demonstrated that by using these household energy reductions, energy cost savings can save in excess of 20% on annual heating bills.

In order to apply, you must contact your local provider to apply for assistance.  In Orange and Rockland Counties, that organization is RECAP, contact person Rosemarie Bressi (845) 421-6266, email rbressi@recap.org.

Once it is determined you are eligible, the provider will contact you to confirm eligibility.  They will then schedule an energy audit of your home that would identify the specific needs.  This audit will determine the extent of improvements necessary and identify the projected energy costs savings associated with such work.  The work will then be scheduled and the weatherization work will be installed which usually takes one to three days.  After completion, the building will be inspected to ensure the quality of work completed.  All service providers must insure that their people conducting work are trained and certified in advance efficiency and health and safety techniques.

The WAP is a great program since not only will it result in reduced energy costs in short term, but will also improve the value of your home in the long term and reduce your carbon footprint to benefit future generations.

Please contact RECAP for more information and Happy Winter.

This is not intended to be legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for questions regarding your specific situation.

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John C. Cappello, Partner of Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP in Monticello, NYJohn C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.

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