All Income-Eligible New Yorkers Could Qualify for an Air Conditioner
Program Expected to serve an Estimated 20,000 Low-Income Households
Applications Begin May 2
Governor Hochul today announced that $15 million is available through the Home Energy Assistance Program to help low-income individuals and families who lack air conditioning to stay cool during the upcoming summer months. Under the direction of the Governor, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance – the agency administering HEAP – expanded eligibility for the cooling component to more effectively assist those in need by including all income-eligible New Yorkers.
“For too many New Yorkers, relief from the stifling heat that summer brings each year is prohibitively expensive,” Governor Hochul said. “By expanding the eligibility guidelines for cooling assistance, we can help ensure that more low-income and disadvantaged households have the means to stay comfortable and safe when temperatures inevitably rise.”
To qualify for cooling assistance under the amended guidelines, applicants must meet HEAP eligibility criteria and income thresholds, which vary by household size. For instance, a family of four may have a maximum gross monthly income of $5,249 or an annual gross income of $62,983. Prior to this year, the cooling component of HEAP was only available to income-eligible households with an individual suffering from a documented medical condition exacerbated by extreme heat.
The program covers the cost of an air conditioning unit and installation. Under the expanded eligibility, the cooling component is expected to serve up to 20,000 households throughout the state.
Applications for cooling assistance will be accepted at local departments of social services starting Monday, May 2 and extending through August 31, or until funding runs out. Assistance is provided on a first-come, first-served basis. New York City residents may download an application and obtain program information at access.nyc.gov.
The cooling assistance program provided about 11,300 benefits throughout the state last year alone. More than 36,000 households throughout New York have benefited from cooling assistance over the past five years.
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, “Summer inevitably brings sweltering temperatures that are not only uncomfortable for New Yorkers lacking the ability to cool their homes, but also pose significant risk of heat-related health emergencies. The expanded eligibility for cooling assistance will be welcome relief for low-income households that struggle to moderate the heat during the hottest days of summer.”
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, “Extreme heat poses major health and safety risks for people of all ages but especially for older adults. The Heating and Cooling Assistance cooling assistance program provides relief right where individuals and families need it most, in their home living environments. I applaud Governor Hochul for expanding this important benefit to help more New Yorkers and ease their access to much-needed cooling assistance.”
Senator Charles Schumer said, “This $15 million in federal home energy assistance will ensure that New York families and seniors struggling to pay the bills can stay cool during the hot summer months. I am proud to have turned up the heat on the feds to get them to deliver this emergency assistance to keep seniors and families safe and with the air conditioning on in their homes.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “No person or family should ever go without adequate air conditioning, especially in the coming summer months. I’m proud to announce this $15 million in funding that will help low-income families access cooling assistance. This is a safety issue, and as New York continues facing extreme weather, we must ensure that every person has access to reliable, sufficient heating and cooling systems to stay safe at home.”
Representative Paul Tonko said, “Cutting energy costs for hardworking families is critical in our long term goals of building a more resilient, clean, and equitable nation, while also providing immediate relief to those who need it most. For years, I have fought to make utility bills more affordable for households. Thanks to my successful push to fund Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program under our COVID relief and federal spending legislation, this vital program will continue to serve families in New York and across the nation.”
Representative Kathleen Rice said, “Last year saw record breaking heat waves across the United States. Proper air conditioning will be a lifesaving tool as we continue to face the dangerous effects of climate change. I’m glad that Governor Hochul is expanding this important program that will provide critical cooling assistance to tens of thousands of low-income households throughout the summer months.”
Representative Adriano Espaillat said, “The Home Energy Assistance Program plays a critical role in ensuring that low-income individuals in our communities are able to cover the cost of heating their homes, and keeping their families safe and healthy. As climate change continues to increase the number and intensity of heat waves in the summer, it is important that we protect our most vulnerable populations. Too often, disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities face the most severe impacts of climate change while they are the least responsible for the causes. I applaud Governor Hochul for announcing this much-needed additional investment from New York State to ensure that low-income individuals and their families who lack air conditioning are able to stay cool during the upcoming summer months.”
State Senator Roxanne Persaud said, “Expanding eligibility for cooling assistance through the Home Energy Assistance Program to all income-eligible New Yorkers is a necessary step in the right direction. Air conditioning is a necessity for vulnerable New Yorkers prone to heat-related illnesses, particularly seniors, young people and those suffering from respiratory difficulties.”
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said, “In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of New York families are still struggling to pay their utility bills, rent and put food on the table to feed their families. As the warmer months approach, it is vital that we provide hardworking, low-income New Yorkers with relief to help keep cool, and an additional $15 million for the Home Energy Assistance Program will do just that. Though more resources are needed to provide comprehensive relief from utility arrears, I am grateful to the Governor for making this important commitment.”
AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said, “Financial help to avoid potentially deadly summer heat should be available to all who need it. AARP New York applauds Governor Hochul for taking an important proactive step to protect New Yorkers’ health – particularly older New Yorkers, who are especially susceptible to temperature extremes.”
Association on Aging in New York Executive Director Becky Preve said, “Older individuals are extremely vulnerable to heat and heat-related illness. In many instances, they can experience exacerbations of chronic health conditions and respiratory issues. The availability of cooling assistance for older adults is paramount to maintaining health and safety in the community. The Association on Aging in New York is thrilled that Governor Hochul has expanded this benefit for New Yorkers.”
LiveOn NY Executive Director Allison Nickerson said, “Through our Benefits Outreach program, LiveOn NY has seen firsthand the impact that the Heating and Cooling Assistance cooling assistance program has in keeping low-income older New Yorkers cool in the face of extreme heat throughout the summer months. We applaud Governor Hochul for expanding eligibility to ensure this program can reach more older New Yorkers in need, and we look forward to working to ensure all older adults are aware of this important resource offered by the state.”
WE ACT for Environmental Justice Director of Policy Sonal Jessel said, “The Home Energy Assistance Program is a lifesaving benefit for many in the summer months. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer and disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income. Over a ten-year period of time, about 50% of heat deaths in New York City were Black/African American people, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. We thank Governor Hochul and OTDA for widening the Cooling Assistance Program eligibility by administering a medical waiver, expanding it to people in subsidized housing, and for offering the application in multiple formats.”
Public Utility Law Project Executive Director Richard Berkley said, “As summers get hotter due to climate change, New Yorkers, and especially seniors, low-income households, and those living in ‘heat islands,’ need access to cooling so that they may avoid dangerous heat-related illnesses. We applaud the expansion of New York’s Heating and Cooling Assistance program being debuted this summer by the State’s Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. These reforms, inherent in New York’s nationally leading Climate and Community Protection Act, will protect disadvantaged communities and safeguard many more New Yorkers from heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which will become all the more common as each summer in turn becomes the hottest on record.”
In addition to cooling assistance, the agency also continues to offer the emergency HEAP benefit to those households experiencing a crisis or life-threatening heat or heat-related energy emergency. The emergency benefit is available through Aug. 31 or until the funds allocated are exhausted.
Statewide demand for HEAP remains high. So far this season, nearly 1.5 million regular benefits were received by low to moderate-income households, and nearly 63,000 emergency benefits were also issued to these households.