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Empire Justice Comments on 2007-2008 New York State HEAP Plan

August 3, 2007

 

New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
HEAP Bureau
40 North Pearl Street - -11C
Albany NY 12243

RE: 2007-2008 New York State Home Energy Assistance (HEAP) state plan

Dear Sir or Madam:

This letter constitutes the comments of the Empire Justice Center on the 2007-2008 New York State Home Energy Assistance (HEAP) state plan. The Empire Justice Center is a statewide backup, training and support center focused on civil legal services and areas of poverty law. We undertake research and policy analysis and act as an informational clearinghouse. We currently have staff attorneys specializing in public benefits (cash assistance, child care, food stamps and child support issues), Health and Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, public and subsidized housing, as well as in other issue areas affecting low income individuals.

We were are strongly supportive of the cooling component which appears on pages 24-25 of the plan which state that :

...the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) will use LIHEAP funds under the weatherization component to provide air conditioners in situations where at least one member of an otherwise eligible household has an acute medical condition that is exacerbated by extreme heat and documented by a physician.

We also note that in the New York State Weatherization Plan (2/9/07), emergency cooling is authorized in a “protracted heat wave,” at two levels:

Basic service provides an electric fan, screw in fluorescent lighting, reduction of hot water heater operating temperatures and refrigerator coil cleaning to eligible weatherization clients.

Priority service provides all basic service measures plus the installation of an energy efficient air conditioner in the dwelling unit of an eligible client where documentation from their doctor was provided to show that the client’s health was endangered because they did not have air conditioning available.

As we read the foregoing, several questions come to mind which we hope that you will clarify in regulation or administrative directive:

  • How will the agency define “protracted heat wave?”
  • In the event of protracted heat wave, how will individuals know that relief is available? Will outreach materials be available before the heat wave? (In the event of a heat wave, call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.).
  • Will outreach materials be shared in advance with senior centers, child care providers and medical providers?
  • Where will individuals go to apply for coverage for an air conditioner?
  • What steps will you take to assure that applications are handled expeditiously?
  • Will the regulations at 18 NYCRR Part 393.4 be amended to reflect eligibility for this cooling benefit?
  • Although we would presume that the person need not have primary responsibility for the payment of his or her heat related energy bill to qualify, this requirement exists for emergency HEAP at 18 NYCRR 393.4(d). Can you clarify that this is not the case?
  • Since summer comes at the end of the heating system,when all HEAP money is usually spent, how will the agency assure that there are funds available for cooling in the summer?
  • We’ve learned from food stamps and disasters (including power outages during heat waves) that outreach is critical on the local level, and districts don’t have the time/ability/money to do this type of outreach. We recommend that the availability of E-HEAP for cooling during a protracted heat wave be included in the state’s disaster plan.
  • Will any of this funding be target for outreach? If not, we recommend that OTDA consider a budget request for a small amount of money for outreach in next year's budget.

Thank you for including this benefit for vulnerable New Yorkers in the HEAP state plan.  Thank you also for the opportunity to comment on the HEAP plan. I look forward to discussing this cooling benefit with you in the future.

For more information, please contact:


Susan C. Antos

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 


(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852
santos@empirejustice.org