July 17, 2008

New York Senator Joins Push for Home Heating Assistance

By Marc Heller, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

Jul. 17--WASHINGTON -- Sen. Charles E. Schumer predicted that Northern New Yorkers could spend hundreds of dollars more this winter to heat their homes, compared to last year. And he joined the push for legislation to expand home heating assistance programs.

Schumer, D-N.Y., cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that upstate households could be hit with cost increases between $720 and $1,400 over the course of the winter.

"Upstate New Yorkers were already forced to drain their bank accounts this summer trying to pay for the skyrocketing cost of fuel, now they're going to be hit all over again this winter with home heating oil," Schumer said in a press release.

The cost increases would be greater for families that bought home heating oil last winter through locked-in advance contracts, because those families missed out on some of last year's price spikes, Schumer's office said, citing estimates from NYSERDA.

In the north country, households could pay a total of between $69 million and $121 million more this winter for heat, the senator's office reported.

Schumer urged Congress to boost the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by $2.5 billion, echoing similar calls from other Northeast lawmakers, including Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor. The push for increased LIHEAP funding this winter has grown throughout the spring and summer, and many lawmakers are eyeing an increase in any bill to which they can attach it.

Other measures aimed at blunting the price increases are also in the works. McHugh, for instance, recently introduced a bill to provide tax credits to offset high home heating costs.

Schumer said he was supporting a Senate version called the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act.

Members of a coalition of Northeast and Midwest lawmakers have also organized a letter-writing campaign to congressional appropriators, urging the increase in LIHEAP in an emergency spending bill.


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