FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 16, 2004
Schumer Urges President To Send $30 Million In Heating Aid To New York As Sub-Zero Temperatures Threaten Safety
Schumer asks President to release additional funds for LIHEAP program that helps over 750,000 lower and middle income New Yorkers with heating costs; Funds are rapidly running out as temperatures fall further below zero
Schumer: Frigid temperatures throughout the state leave seniors and families vulnerable to serious injury if homes are without proper heating
Last year, 39,33
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged President Bush to release additional funds for the Home Energy Assistance Program that sends federal heating aid to over 750,000 lower and middle income New Yorkers, including thousands of senior citizens. Schumer and a bipartisan group of Senators wrote the President today, pushing the Administration to immediately release $223 million for the program nationally, of which approximately $30 million would come to New York.
"I've been traveling all across the state these last few weeks, and everyone in every part of the state is freezing their tail off," Schumer said. "It's gotten to the point where businesses are taking days off because they don't have heat, and others can't stay in their homes because they aren't warm enough. All we're asking for is for the federal government to help these New Yorkers keep warm."
Because the federal government has not yet passed the final budget that was due on October 1, the government is operating under a temporary budget extension called a continuing resolution. Under a continuing resolution, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has to act under his or her discretion to release funds for HEAP, which currently helps 751,937 New York households pay their heating bills.
Schumer said that while the government released a money in December to help states with heating programs, the level of funding is not sufficient given the current cold weather emergency in New York. The funding level for the state grant program last year was $1.788 billion nationwide, a number Schumer and his colleagues believe should be the level released this year. To achieve last year's level, an additional $223 million needs to be released. Schumer said that with the onset of very cold weather this year, demand for HEAP programs has skyrocketed in upstate New York and the total number of homes affected will likely be even higher than in years past.
Last year, the program helped several thousands of New Yorkers in every region in the state: • 39,339 residents in the Capital Region received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 49,523 residents in the Central New York received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 38,618 residents in the Hudson Valley received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 23,952 residents in Long Island received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program.
• 385,547 residents in New York City received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program.
• 33,582 residents in the North Country received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 34,816 residents in Rochester/Finger Lakes received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 34,816 residents in the Southern Tier received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program;
• 96,701 residents in Western New York received federal heating assistance from the HEAP program.
[For county-by-county breakdowns, please see click here.]
To pressure the Administration to release these funds as quickly as possible, Schumer and a bipartisan group of other Senators sent a letter to President Bush today urging him to immediately release enough new HEAP funds to match the amount the federal government spent on HEAP last year – $1.788 billion. Schumer and the other Senators noted that particularly for seniors living on fixed incomes, the higher oil and natural gas prices this year have become simply unaffordable.
"LIHEAP provides a vital safety net for our nation’s low-income households. For many low-income families, disabled individuals and senior citizens living on fixed incomes, home energy costs are unaffordable," the senators wrote. "Many states are receiving an increased number of LIHEAP applications this winter due to high energy prices and slow economic recovery in parts of our country. The weather emergency in the Northeast is further contributing to the need for additional funding immediately."
The HEAP Block Grant is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services and provides two basic types of services. Eligible low-income persons, via local governmental and nonprofit organizations, can receive financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling dwellings, and/or have their dwellings weatherized to make them more energy efficient. The HEAP statute establishes 150 percent of the poverty level as the maximum income level allowed in determining HEAP income eligibility, except where 60 percent of a state's median income is higher. Income eligibility criteria for HEAP may not be set lower than 110 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines.