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Suffolk, National Grid to help with home heating bills

Some extra funding to help low- and middle-income homeowners pay their heating bills this winter was announced yesterday in separate plans by Suffolk County and National Grid.

County Executive Steve Levy and Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) formally presented a $500 check to one of the first families to qualify for the county-funded Middle Income Home Energy Assistance Program, established last winter to help families with incomes too high to qualify for the mostly federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

A total of $200,000 was approved by the county legislature in a bill co-sponsored by Horsley, down from $500,000 last year due to the county's fiscal problems, said a Levy spokesman, who added that $30,000 left from last year's appropriation is available.

The middle income program allows a family to earn up to 35 percent more than the maximums allowed under the federal program, which vary by family size. For example, while a family of four can earn no more than $3,904 a month to qualify for the federal program, income can be as high as $5,270 to qualify for Suffolk's.

National Grid, meanwhile, said that it and the National Grid Foundation pledged $820,000 to service organizations in New England and New York State for heating assistance. They include the United Way of Long Island's Project Warmth, which is getting $50,000. Visit unitedway for details.

Suffolk residents interested in either program can contact the Department of Social Services at 631-853-8820. Nassau residents interested in the federal program can call its Department of Social Services at 516-565-4327.

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