June 1—The State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) announced that a record number of families throughout New York State were served through the Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) this past winter, based on applications received prior to the recent closing date for the program.
OTDA Commissioner David A. Hansell said the total number of LIHEAP benefits issued during the 2008-09 LIHEAP season, which officially concluded on May 15, grew by one-third over the previous year to nearly 1.5 million, bringing more than $400 million to New York families. That total, already a record high, will grow as applications submitted in the final week of the LIHEAP season are still being processed.
"Thanks to Governor Paterson's leadership, we were well-positioned to respond to a record number of requests for assistance in these difficult economic times," Commissioner Hansell said. "In the fall, we expanded access to the program by increasing the income eligibility levels, while also significantly increasing the amount of assistance a household could receive."
The 2008-09 total includes nearly 200,000 $1 benefits issued to households that don't pay directly for heat. By receiving the modest, one-time grant, those households qualified for a higher monthly food stamp benefit. Not including those benefits, the total still increased nearly 17 percent over 2007-08. Previously, the most LIHEAP benefits the state had issued in a single winter was 1.14 million in 2005-06.
In the face of record-high energy prices and an economic recession, OTDA, the agency responsible for administering LIHEAP in New York, implemented changes last fall that allowed New York's most vulnerable residents to receive as much as $2,500 in aid this past winter. The income eligibility for regular LIHEAP benefits was increased so that a family of four earning $45,312 could qualify for assistance. Additionally, taking advantage of a one-time federal authorization, OTDA increased the income eligibility for LIHEAP emergency benefits from 60 percent to 75 percent of the state's median income, which is $56,635 for a family of four. Nearly 8,500 families received emergency assistance as a result of that provision.
Source: Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance