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Look Into Applying For HEAP Program

Question: I saw an ad for HEAP, do you think I should apply for this?

Answer: HEAP is the Home Energy Assistance Program. This is a program for lower income individuals and families, which provides help with energy costs in your home. The benefit received is a one-time payment towards your heating source. That heat source could be natural gas, oil, propane, electricity, wood/wood pellets, etc. The HEAP season runs from November to late spring. The HEAP season has just opened, and now is the perfect time to apply. I do think applying for this benefit would help your budget.

For those that have not had HEAP in the past, you must complete an application and that can be done a couple of ways. You can apply on line at the www.mybenefits.ny.gov website, or get a paper application from the Local County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), the phone number is 716-753-4385. The Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services (DSS) phone number is 716-373-8065 or 716-373-8032. Once that paper application is complete you return it to your County offices.

The criteria for being eligible includes an income limit, which is currently $2,852 per month for an individual, $3,730 per month for a couple. If you have more than two in your family, the income limit continues to go up per person. A family of four can make up to $5,485 per month and still be eligible for HEAP. 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 people making slightly more than the monthly incomes listed previously may still be eligible to receive HEAP. Your expenses like Health Insurance Premiums and others are expenses are used to reduce your net income for HEAP calculations.

The amount of HEAP benefit you could receive is between $21 and $900 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.

For those that are over 60, and have received HEAP last year, you automatically are contacted to verify your information. This contact is your opportunity to update HEAP to any changes in your household, income, & living situation. Once you verify that information and return it, 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.

As I mentioned earlier, 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 County offices. 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 county 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 online 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.

Your question spoke to whether or not you should apply. I say Yes, definitely you should apply if you think you qualify. HEAP is a benefit that allows you to stretch your dollars further during the winter months. Wishing you a warm and safe winter!

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call 716-720-9797 or email SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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