Federal Funds to Help with the Heat

As temperatures continue to dip, city officials are trying to get the word out that there's federal funds available for New Yorkers who need help paying their heat and gas bills.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James said even though such grants have been available every winter for more than 20 year, many are still left shivering when they don’t have to.

"Last year we left federal funds on the table because individuals were totally unaware of this program. I'm trying to get the word out. Individuals can call 3-1-1," she said.

More than $52 million were distributed last winter to people in the city struggling to pay their energy bills.

Robert Doar, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, said, “When the temperature plummets, the Home Energy Assistance Program or HEAP becomes one of the most essential programs for our community. The program has put money into the pockets of working families during the tough economy.”

HEAP is available to single adults making less than $2,146 a month and families of 3 making less than $3,466. Applicants usually receive assistance within 30 days.

Councilwoman James said the program can also assist can with other seasonal issues this winter. "It will obtain heating fuel when the house is without heating fuel, it will repair or replace applicant owned essential heating equipment when it is inoperable such as your boiler."

During the 2010-2011 season, $500 million in grants were distributed throughout the state. But officials said they're unsure of the available funds for this winter since the federal budget has yet to be finalized.

The program runs through next March.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that $52,575,669 in grants were distributed throughout the state in 2010-2011. That number is really $500 million statewide.