Despite the fact that Long Island is considered one of the wealthiest regions in the US, there is a problem of underlying suburban poverty. Overall wealth of the community masks the fact that there are many people who struggle to make ends meet. Federal, state and county authorities have developed a series of fuel and tune-up assistance programs to help those with fuel-related emergencies during the heating season. While these programs do help many people, eligibility criteria are strictly followed, and all these programs basically look for income levels, disregarding common hardships such as passing away of a contributing family or household member or expensive medical treatments.

Read more: Available energy assistance programs on Long Island

What is Project Warmth

heating bills assistance long islandBesides many assistance programs offered by federal, state or local governments, citizens of Long Island can count on a non-government funded charity called Project Warmth from the non-government charity foundation Long Island United Way. Project Warmth is funded by corporations, other large companies and well-to-do individuals. One of the greatest advantages of Project Warmth is a more relaxed eligibility policy compared to all government-funded programs. While government assistance requires applicants to fulfill defined income and other eligibility criteria, Project Warmth offers assistance after assessing each applicant’s overall situation. The Project Warmth application season opens in January, much later than the HEAP government-funded programs and is geared towards residents who had their HEAP applications dropped for various reasons. Funds are available until exhaustion and once an application is accepted, the money is available as grants to a fuel or electricity vendor chosen by the applicant.

Eligibility Requirements

Though Project Warmth eligibility criteria match those for low-income HEAP programs, the LI United Way allows those with greater income levels to apply as well, if their overall financial situation is not as fortunate as their income levels may indicate. Single parents, elderly or disabled persons or low-wage workers may qualify for the Project Warmth assistance, though it doesn’t mean there are no criteria. Applicants are required to provide information about their financial hardships and explain the circumstances that led to inability to pay their heating bills, which also need to be submitted. Also, all HEAP eligible applicants need to prove that they applied for HEAP before applying for Project Warmth. Qualified applicants will only receive one fuel assistance and/or one heating-related electric assistance once a year.

There are also some ineligibility criteria and those include:

  • A third consecutive year of assistance is not allowed
  • Topped oil tank during a prior Project Warmth season
  • Bill not in applicant’s name
  • Current bill without a past due amount
  • Inactive or commercial account
  • SSI recipients who may receive an “SSI guarantee”.

How to Apply for Project Warmth

Residents in need of fuel related assistance may be referred by someone else, but a referral is not a guarantee of acceptance. All applicants are thoroughly examined for their financial hardships to both detect actual needs and avoid unjustified and fraudulent applications.

Project Warmth applications will be available at the United Way website during the season, and assistance grants are expected to be distributed starting January 2016. Further info and guidelines can be found here.