The idea of facing winter uncertain about what you’ll do about heat is terrifying. For many people, the federally-funded Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) means not having to make decisions like whether they should spend money on food or fuel.
When Julie Grant spoke with St. Lawrence County residents Linda Jobes and Leslie Howard (Jobes’ father) in autumn of 2011, Howard said something that’s likely familiar to many who receive assistance from HEAP: “I don’t have income enough to survive if I don’t get it.”
That year, the federal government had dramatically reduced funding for the program. At that time, I reported on a St. Lawrence County organization (Helping Hands of Potsdam) holding an ongoing firewood drive. Efforts like that one were helpful, and still are, but the changes to HEAP have been a hardship for many.
And as the Glens Falls Post-Star reports today, they’re still a hardship. This year, the initial allocation for HEAP was $650 (that’s $50 more than last winter, which was exceptionally warm). But, the article reports, HEAP recipients in past winters have seen more additional allocations than they have this year; and (as always, it seems) prices on many home heating fuels are rising.
The article says with “six weeks remaining in the home heating season” (really? Only six weeks?), many in the North Country are running out of money to pay for heating. That “home heating season” apparently begins Nov. 1 and ends April 1 (again, dare we dream?); but HEAP funding will shut down on March 15 (it also began late this year, on Nov. 19.) Two other federal programs to ease heating costs have also been curtailed in the last year.
Of those running short on heating funds, some are scrambling to find other help — through other programs or through volunteer organizations like Helping Hands of Potsdam.