The Star-Ledger

Home Heating Aid Backed By Corzine

Lawmakers earmark $87.8M more in funds

The Star-Ledger — Friday, October 31, 2008

Star-Ledger Staff

As part of the Corzine administration's economic recovery program for New Jersey, the state is making available an additional $87.8 million for home heating aid and expanding eligibility requirements to help an additional 28,000 to 50,000 households.

The main Corzine administration program, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), has $185.7 million in aid to help meet the cost of electric, gas, oil and propane heat, an increase of $77.8 million over last winter, and income eligibility has been boosted. State Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria said there are currently 196,000 households in the program.

If's chief long-range forecaster Joe Bastardi is correct, Tuesday's "October Surprise," — up to a foot of snow — was just a preview of what may be one of the coldest winters in several years for New Jersey and the Northeast.

"In the eastern half of the nation, people will look at the winter as bookends of cold," Bastardi said. Overall, he foresees a colder and snowier winter getting off to a cold start in December and finishing with a cold spell in late January and February.

Corzine has also asked the Legislature to provide another $10 million for the financially struggling non-profit NJ SHARES program, which provides heating aid for people experiencing short-term financial problems who can demonstrate a history of paying their utility bills. The average one-time payment is $675 although some recipients receive up to $1,000.

The LIHEAP program will begin accepting applications Monday. The program runs through April 30 and Doria said his department has the manpower in place to meet the demands of the expanded program.

The Energy Information Administration projects the average household in the Northeast will spend $2,725 to heat the residence with oil, 37 percent more than a year ago. Gas prices also are expected to rise 14 percent, according to the state Board of Public Utilities.

Regardless of income, households may join the non-profit New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group, which the activist operators maintain can save $300 to $600 on oil fuel costs annually.

Wendy Nachman, the oil group director, said the co-op deals with full service local oil companies. Under the program, oil dealers in some areas may provide budget billing, automatic fill, service contracts, tank insurance and price caps.

"Members of the oil group feel confident that not only are they getting a bargain on their oil price, but they are also taking a stand in the fight for lower oil prices," Nachman said.

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