FORT EDWARD -- A local lawmaker asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to rethink changes to the Home Energy Assistance Program that Washington County officials believe could leave the local poor and elderly waiting in the cold this winter.
The Cuomo administration is considering changes to HEAP’s furnace repair and replace program that would require local the local Department of Social Services to request quotes from every local furnace vendor before fixing a faulty unit. Washington County for years has contracted with a single vendor for the service, the local Economic Opportunity Council’s federally funded weatherization program.
And county Social Services Commissioner Tammy DeLorme worries the change could mean local residents in need of heating repair could be left waiting for days while the county abides by the proposed rule.
Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, in a letter to Cuomo sent Friday, asked the administration to reconsider the proposal, arguing the new crackdown could actually add more cost to the program because people would be more likely to ignore faulty systems.
“This governor has been very good at listening to concerns and coming up with something else,” Jordan said.
The local program replaced 35 nonfunctional heating units in 2011 and repaired 19, and that was in an unusually warm winter, according to county Social Services records.
But there’s a reason, beyond the potential for cheaper services, for the proposal, according to Warren County acting Social Services Commissioner Suzanne Wheeler.
The state is pushing the changes because the private administrators for the program, contracted by some counties, have been steering supply bids, she said.
Warren County administers its own repair and replace program, so the change won’t impact that county, she said.
“We take the lowest qualified bid. That hasn’t been happening across the state,” she said. “It’s not going to get any more difficult than it already is.”
The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is expected to finalize the HEAP reform package later this year.