With temperatures plummeting and the official start of winter just around the corner, Long Island officials are promoting a program that provides low-cost heat to needy homeowners.
National Grid officials and staff are fanning out across Nassau and Suffolk counties to remind seniors and low-income residents about the company's Energy Affordability Program, which offers discounted heating bills and upgrades to make home heating systems more fuel efficient.
About 12,500 of National Grid's 700,000 Long Island gas and heating customers are part of the program, and company officials realize more people might need help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is working with AARP, Albany nonprofit Public Utility Law Project and other groups to promote the program.
"There are programs in place to help them with their heating bills this winter," National Grid president Rudolph Wynter told Newsday. "We stand ready. We are committed to helping people during these times."
Wynter was joined on Monday by Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs, State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and leaders of nonprofit groups at an event promoting the program at the EAC Network Senior Center in Hempstead.
National Grid customers are eligible for the Energy Affordability Program if they receive payments from the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, a federally funded program administered locally by the Nassau and Suffolk departments of social services.
Eligibility for HEAP is based on household income. On Long Island, a family of three is eligible if its monthly income is $4,409 or less, National Grid said.
HEAP applications are available from November through March. Participants must reapply for the program each year.
Beth Finkel, state director for AARP, said less than half of eligible households take part in the program.
"Energy assistance programs can be a literal lifesaver for older New Yorkers who struggle to pay their bill as we enter the winter months," Finkel said in a statement. "Now is the time to sign up for HEAP and to access other assistance to pay your energy bill."
Wynter said National Grid staff are going door-to-door, calling thousands of homeowners and attending events such as bingo gatherings to promote the programs.
"There’s far more we want to do there," Wynter said. "It’s important that everybody knows about it, participates in it and are enrolled in it."
For information about the Energy Affordability Program, call National Grid at 718-403-2216.