Public Assistance and Utility/Heating Emergencies

Can I get help if I am threatened with a utility shut-off?

If you are threatened with a utility shut-off, you may be able to qualify for emergency assistance. You must apply in person at your local Department of Social Services. Your application should be taken on the date you go there.


What must I show to receive emergency utility assistance?

You must show the following:

  1. That you are the customer of record with National Grid. Generally, this means that the utility account must be in your name. When you apply, take a copy of your last utility bill.
  1. Until recently, you had to show that you were the tenant of record. Usually, this meant that your name was on the lease or, if you owned your home, that your name was on the deed. But now DSS should not be asking people to prove they are the tenant of record.
  1. That you are threatened with the loss of heat. This usually means that you have received a shut-off notice from the utility company. Bring a copy of your shut-off notice.
  1. That you have no liquid resources to pay for heat. Liquid resources include cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, etc.
  1. That no alternate payment arrangements can be made with the utility to prevent a shutoff or to restore service.


Do I have to try to arrange a deferred payment agreement?

Yes. DSS may insist that you make an effort to do so. If you don’t, you could be denied this assistance. A Deferred Payment Agreement is a payment arrangement where you agree to pay a portion of your back bill each month. If National Grid determines that you do not have enough income to enter into a DPA then you will receive a denial notice which you should bring back to DSS. If you meet all other qualifications for assistance (listed above) then you will receive emergency assistance.


How much will I receive?

In general, DSS will pay for your last four utility bills, unless these bills cover use more than ten (10) months earlier.

After DSS makes the payment, it will guarantee the utility company that if you face a shutoff within the next 6 months, it will make a payment to stop the shutoff.


Will my public assistance check be reduced?

Your public assistance grant should not be reduced if you can show that:

  1. You paid an amount equal to your fuel-for-heating grant to the utility (the amount for fuel shown on your p.a. budget); and
  1. You paid an amount equal to your Home Energy/Supplemental Home Energy Allowance to the utility (the amount is shown on your p.a. budget); and
  1. You paid an amount equal to your shelter allowance for your rent (the amount is shown in your budget).

In this case, DSS will pay for up to 4 months of bills owed by you to the utility company and may not later recoup from you (deduct from your welfare benefits) the amount it pays. DSS must also guarantee to the utility company that your bills will be paid for the next six (6) months.


What if I can’t prove that I used my public assistance grant this way?

You still will qualify for an emergency four-month payment to the utility company, but DSS will later recoup this amount from your public assistance grant by deducting monthly installments. If you need information on recoupments, please call our office. Also, DSS may decide to pay your utility bills by voucher. In that case, they will deduct one amount from your grant to pay for your fuel-for-heating costs and a separate amount to pay for energy for cooking and hot water.


Do I have to pay back the money if I don’t receive public assistance?

Not if your income is less than 185% of the public assistance standard of need. This is called the Gross Income Test. If DSS says that your income is such that you must enter into a repayment agreement ask if you they applied the Gross Income Test. If they did not, you will need to request a Fair Hearing on the denial.

If you are in fact over income you will have to enter into a repayment agreement. You will have to work out a repayment schedule with DSS to pay the money back within one year.


What if I’m denied assistance?

If you have been denied emergency assistance to prevent a utility shut-off you may request an EXPEDITED FAIR HEARING to contest the denial. Call the N.Y.S. Fair Hearing Office at 474-8781 and tell them you have been denied emergency assistance. You should have a hearing scheduled in a very short time.


√    Apply for Emergency Assistance if you are facing a utility shut-off.

√    Try to work out a Deferred Payment Agreement with National Grid

√    If you are denied Emergency Assistance request an expedited fair hearing.