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The Times
  • Schumer calls for release of home heating aid

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  • HERKIMER — After extreme cold weather affected much of New York state earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is urging the federal government to immediately release more than $35 million to subsidize home heating.
    “The winds caused by the polar vortex have caused even the hardiest New Yorkers to crank up the heat,” said Schumer during a telephone press conference Wednesday. “Millions of seniors and families are struggling to keep warm.”
    Schumer said some money from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is currently being held back. He says that as of November, the HHS only obligated $316 million of the $351 million available for state residents this winter.
    With the recent bout of cold weather across the state, Schumer said the money should be released now.
    “HEAP is an essential safety net for low income seniors and families in need of assistance,” he said. “It’s particularly tough for seniors. They’re on a fixed income.”
    Schumer said heating homes is a “huge financial burden each winter and the cost has risen over the years.” A news release from Schumer’s office states since 2011, “funding has dramatically declined despite the steady increase in home heating costs and below-average winter temperatures. Schumer noted as funding has declined, the number of eligible households has continued to exceed the available funding.
    The funds are intended to help seniors and families with someone disabled or children under age six. Schumer also noted during the conference call the grants for HEAP are given on a first come, first served basis and there is already a waiting list.
    “A stockpile of heating aid is waiting in the wings so millions can stay warm,” he said.
    Schumer said the $35 million will be enough to cover recipients until the new budget is passed for the 2014 fiscal year. For example, if a heating bill is $1,000, that could help an additional 35,000 homes.
    “Usually, [HHS] holds it back because of future cold snaps that might occur,” said Schumer.
    Breakdowns across the state for those who currently receive LIHEAP include the following:
    In the North Country, which includes Herkimer County, 63,137 households are expected to benefit from LIHEAP this winter and receive $29,928,194 in funding. Schumer noted the North Country receives a bigger portion of the funds because residents there have more of a heating bill.
    In the Capital Region, which includes Fulton and Montgomery counties, 90,528 households are expected to benefit from LIHEAP this winter and receive $36,043,750 in funding.
    In Central New York, which includes Oneida County, 111,897 households are expected to benefit from LIHEAP this winter and receive $39,960,878 in funding.
    Schumer is also calling for higher appropriations, saying funds have declined from $4.7 billion in 2011 to only $3.25 billion in 2013, with New York’s share decreasing from $522 million to $351 million. Schumer urged his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to increase the LIHEAP funding above the 2013 levels in the Appropriations bill currently being negotiated, which will provide additional funding from Jan. 15 through Sept. 30.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Now is the time to add to the program, not subtract the benefits of LIHEAP,” said Schumer, who explained why New York gets a bigger portion of the funds available. “We don’t have the greatest cold weather, that’s North Dakota. We don’t have the greatest number of population, that’s California. But we do have the greatest number of people in the cold, so we do come out first in LIHEAP.”
    The total number of LIHEAP recipients in New York during the 2012 - 2013 season was 789,254 with funds totaling $272,999,729.
    In Herkimer County, there were 8,383 recipients in 2013 for a total of $3,723,081. In Fulton County, there were 8,083 recipients for a total of $3,753,948. In Montgomery County, there were 6,754 recipients for a total of $3,099,724. In Oneida County, there were 39,110 recipients in 2013 for a total of $11,937,019.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report
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