National Fuel & Gas recently estimated that home heating costs for its customers would increase by 40% this winter. In other words, what you could heat for $100 last year will now cost $140.
With no signficant increase in utility assistance from either the Erie County Department of Social Services, the Home Energy Assistance Program, or similar community funds (Neighbor-4-Neighbor), many low-income individuals and families face the possibility of gas shut-off this winter, leaving them homeless by federal definition (even if they have a roof over their heads).
Just for the record: the Department of Social Services offers families on TANF (public assistance) $54 per month to cover their heating costs. Why so little? Because the welfare grant hasn’t been raised since 1990. Maybe when George Bush, Sr. was in office, $54 could cover your heating costs, but when McCain or Obama take the presidential seat, $54 is a fraction of the cost of home heating for those living in the Northeast.
If you want to learn more about raising the welfare grant, visit the Hunger Action Network of NYS website.
The following information is for low-income residents of Erie County and case managers of human services agencies. Please be aware of these heating assistance options as costs increase this winter. DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE TO ACCESS THESE SERVICES.
For more information on the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), visit the OTDA website.
Information for Erie County Residents Only:
Need emergency assistance for your gas shut-off? Is HEAP not enough?
To apply for emergency cash assistance you should immediately take the following steps:
1. Go to the National Fuel Gas (NFG) office listed on your shut-off notice. Ask if you can work out a payment arrangement. NFG will fill out a “financial statement” for you, to determine if you are eligible for a payment arrangement. If you are not eligible, take your financial statement, along with identification and proof of income and expenses and…
2. Go to the Department of Social Services (DSS), located in the Rath Building at 158 Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo. Go to the emergency housing unit on the first floor. Take a number from the ticket dispenser in front of window 5. When your number is called go up to the window, present your financial statement and tell the caseworker that you need emergency cash assistance to pay your gas bill. If your request for assistance is denied, be sure to get the denial in writing, and then…
3. Call Neighborhood Legal Services at (716) 847-0650 and ask for the Gas Shut-Off Hotline.
DO NOT WAIT TO APPLY!
In certain cases, emergency cash assistance is only available to cover the most recent 4 months.
The Emergency Utility Assistance Application Process
If you (or a client) has a utility shutoff notice and you have already exhausted your HEAP benefits (or HEAP is not open), you must take the following steps:
1.Talk to the utility company to see if payment arrangements are available.
For National Fuel, go to one of the following locations:
Buffalo Place, 455 Main St (Downtown Buffalo)
Apple Tree Mall, 2875 Union Rd, Suite 44, Cheektowaga
For National Grid, call customer service at 1-800-443-1837
2. If no payment arrangements are available, request a FINANCIAL STATEMENT. This form is required to apply for emergency assistance.
3. Get together proof of all household income and expenses. (See National Fuel flyer for full list of required documents.)
4. Go to Emergency Housing Unit on the 1st floor at 478 Main St, Downtown Buffalo. Make sure to bring all documentation and the financial statement!
TIP: It is best to get there right when they open at 8am, because the later you get there, the longer the wait.
5. If you are denied emergency assistance, call Neighborhood Legal Services at 847-0650 and ask for the Gas Shutoff Hotline (this is the same line for electric shut offs).