© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

With energy costs rising across N.Y., Schumer pushes for federal relief

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Jacquelyn Martin
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Utility companies estimate the cost of heat this winter could rise 20% across the state, and even higher on Long Island. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said supply chain issues from COVID-19 are partly to blame.

“Unfortunately, these supply chain bottlenecks are not keeping pace with the reduction in COVID. They’re just as bad, probably worse, than they have been in a long time,” Schumer said. “The waves of supply and demand translate into costs and heating costs are one of the victims.”

Schumer announced a plan to help New Yorkers who might not be able to afford heating this winter. He is pushing for a $100 million increase to the Home Energy Assistance Program in the upcoming federal budget.

Schumer said hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rely on the assistance because their incomes are no higher than 60% of the state's median, which is less than $31,000 for individuals and $60,000 for families of four.

“No family should have to choose between heating their home or putting food on the table. But that’s what a lot of people, particularly seniors, have to do,” Schumer said. “No senior has to choose between shivering or purchasing medication that they desperately need.”

“First, we’re quickly asking the federal government to quickly release Long Island’s federal energy assistance dollars. ... Second, I'm announcing a push for a hundred million dollar increase in the upcoming budget to the home heating and energy assistance program,” Schumer continued.

Last year in Long Island, more than 80,000 households benefited from the program. Schumer said he wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to act quickly to help ratepayers.

“In previous years, they didn’t allocate it quickly enough, even though the money was in the budget, and a lot of people didn’t get it,” Schumer said.

The nonprofit Family and Children’s Association already reported processing 700 applications within the first two weeks of this year’s enrollment period, which is 20% above last year’s pace.

“With the increase in home heating oil cost and energy cost ... with the financial pressures that have just mounted over time, this call for additional funds ... couldn’t come at a better time,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, the association’s president and CEO. “We need this now more than ever.”

The program helps fund the cost of utilities, weatherizing homes, and installing more energy-efficient cooling and heating units.

To apply for help, visit myBenefits.ny.gov.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.