Everything You Need To Know About The HEAP Program

QUESTION: I got HEAP last year, will I get it again this year? How do I hear? Do they send me a form to complete, or do I have to get a form? I just turned on my furnace and am worried about the bills coming in.

ANSWER: Yes, I turned my furnace on over the weekend. It got me thinking about help with heating bills too! Let me first explain HEAP.

HEAP is Home Energy Assistance Program. This is a program for lower income individuals and families. The program provides help with high energy costs. The benefit is a one-time payment to your heating utility company. The HEAP season runs from November to usually late March or April. The HEAP season usually open mid-November.

For those that are over 60, and were awarded HEAP last year, you automatically are contacted to verify your information. This is your opportunity to update DHHS (Department of Health & Human Services) to any changes in your household, income, & living situation. Once you verify that information and return it to DHHS, your benefit will be determined. If you feel that you were not contacted, feel free to follow the directions for those that are new to HEAP.

So in the coming days you should receive your letter requesting that updated information. You can apply (recertify) using the application that they send to you.

For those that are new to this benefit, you must complete an application and that can be done a couple of ways, after the official HEAP season opens mid-November. But first, let’s review eligibility for this benefit.

The criteria for being eligible includes an income limit, which is currently $2,318 per month for an individual, $3,031 per month for a couple. If you have more than two in your family, the income limit continues to go up per person. I have found many working families and seniors are eligible for this benefit, so it is definitely worth looking into.

If you feel your income is close to or just above the monthly income limit, it is still worth looking into. As you complete the application, there are opportunities for you to disclose expenses that may offset your income. This means some people making slightly more may still be eligible to receive HEAP. Those expenses can include insurance premiums that you pay.

The amount of HEAP benefit you could receive is between $21 and $675 depending on the type of heat/utility you have and your income levels. Remember that this one-time payment is usually made directly to your utility provider. This can really help stretch your energy dollars in a heating season.

As I mentioned before, you can apply for the HEAP benefit a couple of ways; the first is a HEAP paper application. You can get this application from the local Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) office by walking in and asking for an application or calling 753-4385 and requesting an application be mailed to you. You can download a HEAP application from www.mybenefits.ny.gov. Once downloaded and printed you would mail your completed application to the local DHHS office.

A faster and relatively easy way to apply is to use the website at www.mybenefits.ny.gov to complete the entire application on-line. This on-line version is submitted automatically to the local DHHS office and then their staff contacts you with questions or clarification issues. For those that are comfortable using a computer, or have someone they trust who is good with a computer these newer options can be very useful. I remind you to use someone you trust because you are giving them a lot of VERY personal information. These websites are safe and secure, but the information you are giving the person helping you is usually information we recommend not giving out to anyone.

HEAP is a benefit that allows you to stretch your dollars further during the winter months. But remember that the HEAP season has not opened yet for those that are new to the HEAP benefit.

Wishing you a warm and safe winter!

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or e-mail her at janells@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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