From the “no foolin’!” file, this today: As it’s currently colder than a witch’s teat in the North Country, and has been on and off since the end of last year, the social service agencies that administer the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) in our area are being inundated with requests for the aid. The Watertown Daily Times reports today that the departments of social services in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have shelled out $2,933,917, $1,122,575, and $3,875,799, respectively, in benefits. Additionally, agencies have approved $1,114,413 in emergency and furnace repair and replacement funds in the three counties.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone at those agencies: It was cold in November, it was cold in December, and it’s cold now. The annual benefits period for regular HEAP began in mid-November, as did funding for repair and replacement; the emergency HEAP season (the most wonderful time of the year!) began January 2.
Lewis County Social Services Commissioner Stacy Alvord told the paper her department can’t keep up with the influx of requests; and St. Lawrence County’s Social Services Commissioner Chris Rediehs told the paper the department had gotten more than 1,300 calls over the last three days, most of which were HEAP-related.
It’s better to apply for the funding (which averages between $400 and $650) sooner rather than later if you qualify (here’s how to tell if you do). The program ends in mid-March, but, the paper says, “funds the state received could dry up beforehand, therefore ending the program early.” But Rediehs says if you’re eligible and apply by the closure date you’ll get your funding. It’s a little confusing but there’s a lot more information in the article.
If you’d like to know more about HEAP (or if you think you qualify), you can call Social Services in Jefferson County at (315) 782-9030, Lewis County at (315) 376-5400 and St. Lawrence County at (315) 379-2111.