Seniors and low-income residents looking for a cool apartment this summer have some good news and bad news.
The bad news is that Mayor Bill de Blasio discontinued the administration’s highly successful “Get Cool” program he initiated last summer, which gave out 74,000 air conditioners to low-income seniors.
The program, in part, was implemented as senior centers and cooling centers were closed last summer due to the pandemic.
“We were able to serve much of the target population. Now, senior centers and other facilities that serve as cooling centers are opening back up again and New Yorkers in need of a cool place are able to visit,” said de Blasio Spokesperson Laura Feyer.
The good news is with summer nearly here, New York City residents can now apply to receive free air conditioners through the New York State Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dave Chokshi, urged those who are vulnerable to apply.
“Although our city is reopening, places to seek relief from the heat may remain limited this summer as we continue to work together to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Using an air conditioner for even a few hours a day can be a lifesaver,” said Chokshi.
A component of HEAP, which is organized by the Department of Social Services – Human Resources Administration (DSS-HRA) is the Cooling Assistance Program, which helps eligible households purchase and install AC units or fans for up to $800.
Typically, households that qualify for this program under HEAP include those receiving a HEAP benefit during the current HEAP program year, or those receiving public benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or a Code A Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
“In the 2020 season, from May 1 thru August 31, 2020, more than a million low-income households in New York City received HEAP benefits of some kind, the overwhelming majority of which are administered by New York State and automatically distributed to eligible households,” said DSS Spokesperson Ian Martin.
In that same time period, 2,118 Cooling Assistance grants were provided to low-income households in New York City to help them obtain and install air conditioning units/fans. The applications are accepted on a rolling basis each season, since the amount of grants provided from this program is not predetermined.
In June 2020, DSS-HRA and the state worked together to remove some eligibility requirements while securing waivers for others, to make it easier to apply to receive cooling assistance.
“After securing these waivers so we could make these positive changes, we conducted proactive outreach to households who applied earlier in the season who had been determined ineligible, encouraging them to reapply,” said Martin.
“At the request of DSS, the State eased eligibility requirements regarding the need for a verified doctor’s note to substantiate the medical necessity of an AC unit or fan due to a household member’s health condition that is exacerbated by the heat,” Martin added.
The State also removed an eligibility requirement that previously disqualified households where utilities are factored into total rent costs, which includes NYCHA/public housing and Section 8 households.
The HEAP cooling assistance program has made $15 million available, expanding this benefit to even more New Yorkers. The program opened May 3, 2021, and applications will be accepted through August 31, 2021, or until allocated funds are depleted.
New Yorkers who would like to apply can call 311 or the HEAP Conference Line at 212-331- 3126 to ask for a HEAP cooling assistance application, or apply online.