Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HEAP Eligibility and Benefit Changes Rumored

Efforts may be underway at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (“OTDA”) to revise significantly the State HEAP Plan and benefits under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (“LIHEAP”) for winter 2008 - 09. In October, PULP reported that of the $5.1 billion allocated to HEAP nationwide, New York State is slated to receive $476,376,332, more than $100 million more than last year, and much more than had been anticipated when the State's plan for 2008 - 09 was prepared. By way of comparison, New York received a total of $357.8M in federal LIHEAP funding for the 2007-08 HEAP season. The state HEAP program opened November 3, 2008.

While no formal documentation has yet been released, it is PULP’s understanding that effective December 1st, second emergency HEAP payments would be authorized. Also, applications for both first and second Emergency HEAP payments would be accepted over the telephone, if the correct documentation is submitted. In addition, Regular HEAP heating benefits would be increased by $100 on December 1st. Households who have already received a regular HEAP should see a supplement of $100.

In addition, the income eligibility guidelines for Emergency HEAP benefits would be raised to 75 percent of state median income, up from 60 percent in the current State HEAP Plan. As a result, it would be possible for some households to qualify for an Emergency HEAP benefit without qualifying for a Regular HEAP benefit if their income is between 60% and 75% of the state median income. This change would also apply to furnace repair and replacement as they are considered to be part of Emergency HEAP assistance.

No hearings or meetings of the HEAP Block Grant Advisory Committee are planned for this revision of the state plan. OTDA may publish the changes soon as an emergency SAPA rule, perhaps with comments due between November 24th and December 5th.

More details will be provided when the changes are posted.

Lou Manuta

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