Winter assistance available when needed

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 1/31/24

On January 20, the annual Winter Assistance Fair was held at the Ulster County Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center at 733 Broadway in Kingston. This free event provided the public …

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Winter assistance available when needed

On January 20, the annual Winter Assistance Fair was held at the Ulster County Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center at 733 Broadway in Kingston. This free event provided the public with a wealth of information on energy affordability, efficiency, consumer protections, financial assistance, weatherization and services for older adults.
A number of key NYS Agencies participated in the Fair - the Department of Public Service, the Energy Research and Development Authority, Housing and Community Renewal, the Ulster County Office of the Aging, the NYS Power Authority and the Ulster County Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. This last agency in Albany can be reached at 800-342-3009 for information on many of the participating agencies.
In addition, the name, location and phone numbers for food pantries and soup kitchens was provided, along with information on how to apply for and access the Home Energy Assistance Program [HEAP] to help pay heating costs, repairs, replacement and/or to ensure proper and efficient operation of heating equipment.  
Richard Berkley, NYS Director of Consumer Services, said his department “puts together these inter-agency winter events where we bring together such agencies as the Cornell Co-operative Extension, which has the Clean Energy Hub that works with people to get energy audits and to learn about how you can improve the warmth and comfort of your house and save money.”
Berkley said Ulster County Social Services was there to advise people of lower incomes, “on what kinds of services would be available to make the winter more affordable to them. They can also do things like repair or replace your furnace.”
Berkley said the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority [NYSERDA] was, “leading the charge on all the hardware such as how to replace your existing stove with an induction stove, which is much less expensive to operate.” He pointed out that NYSERDA is also advising the state on electrification. “There are all sorts of heat pumps and financing for people up to moderate income and even financing for people way up from moderate incomes.” They can be reached at 866-595-7917.
Berkley said [HEAP] is invaluable to New Yorkers.  
“New York used to get $320 million a year and this year they got $360 million but during the pandemic they got $500 million.” He said that spike in funding, was because “most people were staying at home and using more energy, especially in the rural and colder areas up in the mountains.”
Jennifer Rios said HEAP is designed to help people with their energy bills whether oil, kerosene, propane, wood, natural gas, electric, corn or coal. They are located at the Ulster County Department of Social Services in Kingston and on the internet at The office can be reached at 845-334-5311. The state level can be accessed at where an application for HEAP assistance can be downloaded and printed.
Joanne Palmatier works in Outreach and Education for the NYS Department of Health. She said they help people of low and medium incomes to pay their bills and offer information to the public on phone services, heating and electric issues, cable issues, “and we’re eventually going into broadband as well.” She said if her office is unable to help with a particular constituent’s issue they reach out to other agencies for their assistance.  
“We’re like the Grand Central Station of getting people to where they need to be,” she said.
Palmatier said they provide a helpline at 1-800-342-3377 for utility service or billing questions and a hotline at 1-800-342-3355 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to immediately address electric or gas shut offs.