January was a really cold month, and February has continued the deep freeze. Keeping that in mind, with high fuel prices and a pandemic that doesn’t seem ending in the near future, folks are suffering.
For example, last month a single mom from the area, who was underemployed, found out she needed a new furnace. The one she wasn’t working properly, and as a result she was in a dire situation, with a possible carbon monoxide problem, according to the local heating professional. She didn’t know what to do. Speaking anonymously, she said, “I felt shame. Luckily I had a computer and a wood stove. I needed a new furnace, but they were out of stock due to the pandemic. It took me three weeks to prove income.”
Negotiating through the system was not easy, she said. “I was lucky,” she said. “I had a computer, and a woman from Ulster County Social Services helped me navigate the system.” Through the Heat Energy Assistance Program she was able to purchase a new furnace through Britt and Graf Fuel Company, and HEAP paid 100% of the costs. A happy ending, but this is not uncommon.
According to the County Executive’s office last November, HEAP had 2,954 open cases and 3,087 cases in December, trending upward in 2021 with over 3,000 open cases a month through September.
This year, with rising costs of fuel and an extremely cold January, people having problems with meeting their energy needs continues, but there is help out there. HEAP offers assistance with fuel for heating your home with everything from electricity to propane, oil, wood pellets, wood, corn and even coal if you meet the requirements. Eligibility and benefits are based on income, household size, primary heating source and the presence of a household member who is under the age of 6, age 60 or older, or permanently disabled. These benefits go through the Ulster County Social Services Department.
Other programs can assist you. There are regular arrears supplement benefits that can help you with your gas or electricity bills if your payments are in arrears. There is also a HEAP emergency benefit if you need are in a heat emergency.
There is also the Heating Equipment Repair and Replacement Benefit opened on Oct. 1, 2021, which can help you repair or replace your furnace, boiler and other direct heating equipment necessary to keep your home’s primary heating source working. All you have to do is call your HEAP Local District contact through the UC Social Service Department and meet the eligibility requirements.
There is also the Clean and Tune benefit to maintain your system and to allow for the safe, proper and efficient operation of heating equipment, helping you with chimney cleaning, installation of carbon monoxide detectors and general cleaning of your equipment.
You can access all these programs through Ulster County Social Services at 845-334-5436 or, for heating emergencies, call 845-334-5000 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also seek help in person at Ulster County Department of Social Services/HEAP, 1021 Development Court, Kingston, or online at https:/otda.nygov.programs/applications/. You can also reach out to Ulster County Community Action in Kingston at 845-338 -8750.
There is help out there to meet your heating needs, so contact these sources if you need them.
Stay warm, wear a mask, and most of all be safe out there.
HEAP stats provided by Ulster County Temporary Assistance for the 2021-2022 HEAP Season as of Jan. 31, 2022:
7,963 households received an automatic benefit based on their prior or ongoing case with DSS
2,857 applications have been submitted
39 furnace applications have been completed
75 Clean & Tune applications have been completed
137 Emergency HEAP payments have been disbursed
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