With colder weather rolling in, federal grant money is being distributed to the states to help low-income residents pay for their heating bills.

The opening day this year for applications for the Home Energy Assistance Program, administered by social services departments within county governments, is Nov. 12.

While the jobless rate has dipped this year, the need for heating assistance is nonetheless expected to remain great throughout the state.

The New York benefit, according to the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, can be as much as $675 for the heating season for income-qualified applicants who heat their homes with oil, propane or kerosene. The benefit can be as much as $525 for those who heat with wood, coal or other deliverable fuel.

In the 2017-18 heating season, more than 1.4 million New York households received HEAP funds. That sum included 134,242 households in Western New York, 36,265 in the North Country, 46,756 in the Mohawk Valley and 52,107 households in the Southern Tier.

HEAP also offers assistance to low-income households grappling with malfunctioning heating equipment.

Beginning Nov. 2, according to OTDA, New Yorkers may begin applying for HEAP's "clean and tune" benefits, offering up to $400 to clean chimneys and cover energy efficiency services.

In some counties, the Office of Aging may administer HEAP for persons more than 60 years old.

New Yorkers can check their eligibility for HEAP, SNAP (food stamps) and other social services benefits from this web page: https://mybenefits.ny.gov

BRIGHT SIDE OF HARSH CLIMATE

My recent column on how climate change impacts New York was admittedly on the gloomy side.

But for at least one company with a presence in New York, there has been a silver lining in the extreme weather events the world has been experiencing.

Since 2017, AccuWeather, a forecasting service, has boosted its New York workforce from 17 to 63 staffers, and now has offices in the World Trade Center in Manhattan, according to the business publication Crain's New York.

With data from AccuWeather, one home products company now can tell its trucks to avoid roads facing washouts, while concert promoters can delay shows if a heat wave is looming, Crain's reports.

ETHICS AND ALBANY

The Albany statehouse had an effective ethics cop on the beat when the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was a whip-smart lawyer named Preet Bhahara. Some say that's because Bhahara was not a creature controlled by the politicians now in charge of state government.

Good government groups have clamored for years for an independent ethics watchdog in Albany. Many of the routine ethics controversies are now handled by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which is led by appointees of the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders.

JCOPE has been occupied lately with an investigation targeting a rape victim, Kat Sullivan, who became an important voice in the push for the Child Victims Act, legislation extending the time frame in which molestation victims can sue those who abusedthem.

Sullivan is being probed because she didn't register as a lobbyist amid her advocacy work. But her supporters say she wasn't bound to do so, and argue JCOPE has misinterpreted the laws it is supposed to follow.

Common Cause/New York weighed in on the brewing controversy Friday. "This is an abuse of power that smacks of retaliation, and violates our fundamental democratic rights.," said Susan Lerner, director of the reform group's state chapter.

Sullivan faces tens of thousands of dollars in potential fines if JCOPE determines she violated the lobbying law. She had rented billboards carrying messages in support of the Child Victims Act. But Lerner said the Lobbying Act makes it clear that a person who is not retained to advocate on behalf of another entity is not engaged in lobbying.

JCOPE's chairman, Michael Rozen, defended the Sullivan probe in a letter to two lawmakers, commenting, "JCOPE cannot pick and choose who is covered out of sympathy or hostility,” the New York Post reported just days before Lerner fired her salvo at the ethics panel.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

 

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