With temperatures dipping below zero lately, there's good news for local people who struggle to keep their homes warm.
North country residents may be eligible for financial help if they're in danger of having their heat shut off or running out of home heating fuel.
Applications for emergency home heating funds are now available through Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
The federally funded program will give eligible low-income households one regular HEAP benefit per season, or a one-time emergency HEAP benefit if they are in danger of running out of heating fuel or it will be shut off.
"Once you're qualified, we will send the payment directly to your fuel supplier and they will bring the delivery to your home," said Anthony Farmer, spokesman for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
Eligibility for emergency HEAP benefits is based on income, available resources, and the type of emergency.
For example, a family of four can have a household income of $49,333 a year and may still qualify for a HEAP benefit.
Even though it's a one-time program, there is something called emergency HEAP for people who need more help paying the heating bills.
"If you still find you're, again, facing a shutoff or unable to get an additional delivery of fuel and are close to running out, you can then qualify for an emergency benefit," said Farmer.
With winters like we have, people may need even more help to make it through.
Enter Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County.
"If they need help after the emergency HEAP season is done, then they can come here for assistance," said Melinda Gault, executive director of CAPC.
CAPC has help available for a limited time.
"We've been busy tending to those people and we have to have the money spent by March," said Gualt.
A complete list of where to apply locally can be found at otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/HEAP-contacts.pdf.
More information can also be found by calling the New York State HEAP Hotline at 1-800-342-3009.
New York residents can check if they may be eligible for HEAP, and numerous other benefits, by answering a few questions online at myBenefits.ny.gov.
Emergency HEAP benefit amounts are listed below:
Heat Related Domestic (electric service required to operate heating equipment) - $160
Natural Gas Heat Only - $400
Natural Gas Combined with Heat Related Domestic - $560
Electric Heat Combined with Heat Related Domestic - $560
Non-utility heating fuel (oil, kerosene, and propane) - $600
Non-utility heating fuel (wood, pellets, coal, corn, etc.) - $500