ALBANY, NY (WENY)-- Tuesday, low-income New York families who need help paying their heating bills can start applying for the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP. This year because of higher heating costs, the value of these benefits increased. 

Eligible households can receive up to $976 in the heat assistance benefits. Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Daniel W. Tietz, said with New York's cold winters it's important these benefits be available. 

“We know that low-income households struggle to heat their homes. Without this resource, many would find it impossible," he said. 

People can submit applications for assistance either in person at their local Department of Social Services or apply online. Those who are on public assistance or get social security benefits are automatically eligible for HEAP assistance.

And for others, eligibility is based on income and household size. If an applicant qualifies, they will be notified within 30 days of the received application. 

This year the benefits increased 33 percent for households that heat with oil, kerosene, or propane, 21 percent for households that heat with wood, wood pellets, or coal, and 14 percent for households that heat with electricity or natural gas. Tietz said this increase will be significant for New Yorkers this winter. 

“We don’t want to see folks or at risk of homelessness because they can’t afford their bills," he said. 

 Applications for heating assistance will be open until the resources are exhausted, which can go until March. Household can also apply for emergency heating assistance, where you are at risk of your heat being shut off, starting on Jan. 3, 2023. 

More information on Regular HEAP benefits and Emergency HEAP benefits can be found on the website for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.