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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 7, 2008

Schumer: Ulster County Seniors To Pay $720 More On Home Heating Oil This Winter, LIHEAP Funds Could Run Out Before December - Will Announce Push For $5.1 Billion In LIHEAP Funding

Hudson Valley Residents Will Spend Total of $275m More in Home Heating Oil An Estimated 3,100 Ulster County Seniors Utilize LIHEAP To Stay Warm in the Winter Schumer, joined by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Will Announce Push for More LIHEAP Funding When Congress Returns in the Fall

With oil prices expected to soar to record levels when the weather gets colder, today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer warned that seniors and other Ulster County residents will be left out in the cold this winter if Congress doesn’t act fast this fall to pass home-heating assistance funding. To ensure seniors and other residents stay warm this winter, Schumer announced his push for two pieces of critical emergency legislation that would give New York State a boost of millions of dollars in LIHEAP funding.

“When the thermostats go down, and the oil prices go up, our seniors and other residents could be left struggling to pay their bills,” Schumer said. “We cannot leave residents out in the cold this winter and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure they have the assistance they need.”

 

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Chairman of the New York State Assembly Energy Committee, joined Schumer today in his push for home heating assistance and continued his push in the State Assembly for an assistance plan.

 

“Given the record high price of home heating fuel, far too many New Yorkers will have to choose between heating their homes throughout the long months of ice and snow and bitter cold that are coming and feeding their families.  We cannot wait until the crisis is upon us before we act,” said Cahill.

 

With crude oil prices spiking to over $140 a barrel last month—and some energy analysts predicting it could hit $150 a barrel this winter—estimates are showing that the average American household will once again face ever-increasing home heating bills this winter. The average Ulster County household using home heating oil will consume 631.7 gallons of oil per winter season. Last year, at an average cost of $3.16 per gallon, Ulster County seniors paid approximately $1,996 per household to heat their homes over the course of the winter season. This year, the U.S. Department of Energy expects the price of heating oil in Upstate New York to be a shocking $4.30 per gallon. This would result in an increased expense of $720 per household this winter.

 

Home heating oil price estimates from NYSERDA show an even more shocking price increase. NYSERDA estimates that families in Ulster County were paying an average of $2.58 per gallon for heating oil last winter. But they predict home heating oil prices will cost an average of $4.58 per gallon this year. This means the average Ulster County senior or other household will pay $1,260 more this winter per household for heating oil than last winter. The 381,600 households in the Hudson Valley are expected pay a total of $274,798,000 (based on DOE estimates) to $491,587,500 (based on NYSERDA estimates) more this winter to heat their homes.

 

In addition, estimates of the price per gallon of home heating oil have increased significantly in just the last month. With limited federal and state funds set aside, many of Ulster County’s senior citizens – who are typically on fixed incomes -- could struggle to pay their skyrocketing home-heating bills this winter.

 

Speaking at the New Paltz Site of Family of Woodstock with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and in an effort to offer some relief, Schumer announced a plan to dramatically expand the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that provides direct aid to help the elderly cover high home heating bills.

 

Schumer is fighting for critical legislation in a second stimulus package that would boost LIHEAP funding by $1.25 billion nationwide over the proposed funding levels, to a total of $3.78B.  This increase would mean an extra $35 million in New York State, with the potential for millions more in the program's "contingency" funds.  Schumer is also pushing his legislation with Senator Sanders to increase LIHEAP by $2.53 billion, for a total of $5.1B.  Under the Sanders bill, New York would immediately receive $24,164,000 in formula funding; and about $226 million in funding based on the historical distribution of contingency funding over the last 3 fiscal years.

 

Earlier this summer the National Energy Directors Association (NEADA) conducted a national survey of utility arrearages and shutoffs.  The survey found that millions of elderly households this year are facing a severe hardship paying arrearages from last winter’s heating bills, coping with impending and actual shutoff of service, and meeting rising air conditioning costs.  The survey estimated that at least 1.2 million households have been disconnected from electric and natural gas service during the three-month period following the end of state shutoff moratoriums. 

 

This was a conservative estimate as the level of shutoffs was likely to go higher as utilities completed credit and collection procedures.  The statute specifically defines a significant increase in home energy disconnections as an emergency and reason for the release of funds.

 

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. residential electricity prices are also expected to increase at a rate of 3 percent this year.  States undergoing market restructuring continue to experience more rapid price increases as rate caps expire and higher fuel costs are passed through to consumers.  In some instances, customers may see rate increases of up to 50 percent. 

 

Schumer argued today that boosting LIHEAP funding is essential to assisting Ulster County seniors in meeting rising bills this winter. “No senior citizen should have to decide between buying life-saving prescriptions and paying utility bills,” Schumer added. “This critical funding will go a long way in protecting seniors across Ulster County and the Hudson Valley.”

 

Earlier this summer Schumer also pushed to dramatically expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides direct assistance to low-income families and seniors who are struggling to pay their bills. Schumer joined a bi-partisan group of Senators and is introducing new legislation, S.3186, the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act, to provide billions in additional emergency LIHEAP funding for this winter. Schumer today vowed to continue this fight when the Senate returns from recess.

 

Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy, has been conducting a series of news conferences across the state focusing addressing the expected home heating crisis New Yorkers will face this winter. 

 

In anticipation of a crisis, the Assembly developed and approved a responsible plan (A.11590) in June to include:

 

  • $550 million to enhance the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), effectively doubling what is available to eligible recipients and expanding the program to include middle income New Yorkers.  This would increase the size of the regular HEAP grant and raising the income eligibility level to 80 percent of median family income from the current 60 percent. For example, under this proposal, a family of four would be eligible for HEAP assistance if household income was up to $55,500, instead of the current $41,600.
  • $250 million for energy conservation measures, including weatherization and home energy efficient programs.

 

“We cannot let New Yorkers freeze this winter,” said Cahill.  “Senator Schumer and the Assembly have come forward with plans to help avert this home heating crisis.  The time to act is now.”  

 

 

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