More in New York eligible to get help staying warm

August 4, 2008 6:31:18 PM PDT
More New Yorkers will qualify for state checks to help pay winter heating bills this year because the maximum income to qualify for the program is higher. A family of four may qualify for help if they make up to $3,776 per month, or more than $45,000 a year, said Anthony Farmer, a spokesman for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Last year, the same family could make no more than $3,609 per month - just over $43,000 a year - to qualify.

A spokesman for Gov. David Paterson says the state is asking for more than $100 million in additional federal funding to help New Yorkers this winter.

New Yorkers can't submit applications for heating assistance until Nov. 3 this year, but officials say it's already time for families to plan ahead.

New Yorkers can go to to find out if they are eligible, or call the toll-free Temporary Assistance hot line at 1-800-342-3009 to locate a nearby social services office.

The cost of oil has spiked since last year. The typical household using home heating oil in New York will see bills rise from $1,528 for the winter to $3,760 - a nearly 150 percent increase, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Under the Bush administration's proposal for heating assistance, New York would receive $187 million - less than last year's nearly $248 million, at a time when energy costs have gone up dramatically. The average cost of a gallon of home heating oil in New York state was $4.70 in June - about 75 percent higher than the average of $2.67 at the same time last year, according to NYSERDA.

The state is asking Congress to fund the federal program at $5.1 billion, which would put New York's share at about $500 million, Farmer said. Bush's proposal would fund the program with $1.5 billion this year. In 2007 the program received $1.98 billion, plus $181 million in contingency funds.

Last year New York also received an additional $109 million in contingency funding for home heating. But this year Bush is proposing to set aside $282 million nationally for the fund, which pays out to states as they encounter crisis heating problems, Farmer said.

On Monday, the state Assembly announced a plan that would add $550 million to the home heating fund with additional state money, and another $250 million for weatherization and energy conservation. Assembly Democrats said they would pay for their plan with a 2 percent gross receipts tax on large oil companies and prohibit the oil companies from passing the tax on to customers.

The Assembly will also propose a retroactive measure to get back oil company profits since 2005 when the sales tax on gasoline was capped at two dollars.

The proposal would also farther increase the size of the heating grants and extend it to people with higher incomes. A family of four with a household income of $55,500 a year would still be eligible for help.

The Legislature is expected to return and address home heating proposals Aug. 19.

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