As winter approaches and the weather gets colder, New Yorkers will be spending more to heat their homes and stay warm. In these recessionary times when budgets have already been stretched thin, that task may prove even more difficult, but help is on the way.
Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) announced Monday that his office will conduct a series of weekend clinics to assist constituents in filling out applications for the Home Energy Assistance Program.
“We are going through probably the worst economic times of our lifetime,” Meeks said. “I know it is by far the worst I have ever seen in my life and so I can imagine how it is for seniors or for those who are indigent. As the cold weather comes, it is going to be even harder for them. Sometimes the goverment has programs that are set up to help people, the problem is it gets to be complicated.”
The HEAP program assists qualifying elderly and low-income individuals in paying for heating costs by giving them credits and subsidies for electricity, oil, gas or propane so that they don’t have to choose between feeding themselves or their families and staying warm.
Meeks represents the 6th Congressional District, which has had the highest number of foreclosure filings in New York City — a key indicator that families are in distress — according to Candace Sandy, Meeks’ communications director.
Representatives from Meeks’ office will work with each applicant on a one-on-one basis to help them fill out the six-page application, which asks questions about the number of household occupants, income levels and heating specifications.
“Generally any time you see an application that is four or five pages long, that is intimidating to some of the contituency — especially the target constituency,” Meeks explained. “You have seniors, who don’t have anyone else to depend upon — it’s hard for them to see, the print is fine. We are here to serve them. Then you have some individuals who are poor, who unfortunately are not as educated as well but they have common sense and that common sense will lead them to this office to get the assistance that they need.”
Higher benefits are provided to households that contain a vulnerable individual — children under the age of 6, adults who are 60 or older, or disabled individuals — and have the lowest income. To find out if you are eligible for HEAP benefits, visit mybenefits.ny.gov and use the HEAP Pre-screening Eligibility Tool or contact Meeks’ office.
The clinics are free and open to the public. They will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. every Saturday from Nov. 21 through Dec. 5 at Meeks’ Jamaica district office located at 153-01 Jamaica Ave., and on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 at his Far Rockaway office, located at 1931 Mott Ave., suite 305. For more information or to register, call (718) 725-6000.