Al Stirpe

Winter is fast approaching and it won’t be long before it is fully upon us. As New Yorkers turn up the heat to keep their houses warm, utility bills go up. For low-income families and those living on a fixed income, these utility bills can prove to be a major burden. No one should have to go without heat because of the cost. Thankfully, the Home Energy Assistance Program can help.

HEAP provides financial assistance to renters and homeowners who use electricity, natural gas, oil, wood, propane and other fuels, but are struggling to keep up with the costs. Eligible families can also apply for funds to help pay for home heating equipment repairs and cleaning as well as replacement. Eligibility is determined by a number of factors, including income, household size, primary heating source and age of family members. For example, a family of four that has a household income of up to $4,598 a month may qualify for help. Households can receive up to $726 in assistance.

It’s not just families with kids that face these obstacles, though. Seniors living on a fixed income can also feel the hit that comes with keeping up with heating costs. New Yorkers age 60 and over can contact the Onondaga County Office for Aging at 315-435-2362 to request a mail-in application for HEAP. For more information, you can visit the Onondaga County Department of Social Services office located at 421 Montgomery St., Second floor, Syracuse, call 315-435-8295 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit the website at You can also call the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) Hotline at 1-800-342-3009. Assistance is granted on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you apply, the better.

While Central New Yorkers are no strangers to inclement weather, it’s still important to take precautions to stay safe and warm. There’s so much to do and see here in Central New York during the winter, but please be mindful that prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and seniors. Hypothermia can be recognized by an inability to concentrate, poor coordination, slurred speech, exhaustion and uncontrollable shivering followed by a lack of shivering. Since we can lose half of our body heat through our head, simply wearing a hat and a scarf and dressing in layers can make all the difference. And remember, you should avoid traveling under extreme winter conditions and use extra precaution on bridges, as ice can form quicker there than on roads.

HEAP is an invaluable program that keeps New Yorkers warm and well during the winter, and it’s just one of the vital programs I fight to fund in Albany. I’ll never stop looking out for our families, come rain, shine or snow. As always, my door is open. If you have questions about this or any other community issue, please reach out to my office at StirpeA@nyassembly.govor by calling 315-452-1115.

By martha

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