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Need help with heating?

State Assemblywoman−elect Grace Meng urged residents in Flushing to join a state program that helps pay heating bills during the winter months, noting that the country’s financial crisis makes any aid worth taking.

She joined leaders of the Korean, Chinese and Latino communities in Flushing to encourage eligible residents to take part in the Heat Energy Assistance Plan, a federally funded state program that offers help to lower− and middle−income families struggling with high heating costs.

“This is something where they will receive from $50 to $500 and even in some special cases up to $2,000 to pay their heating bills,” the Flushing Democrat said. “We want to make sure our families stay warm and have the services they need.”

Sung Min Yoon of the Asian Outreach Center at the Child Center of New York, said it is important for immigrant communities to know they should take advantage of programs like HEAP.

“Usually immigrant populations are inclined not to use government services. But these programs are for everyone,” Yoon said. “Don’t be afraid of getting involved in something that’s run by the government.”

Meng said her office, in Suite 10J of the Queens Crossing Building at 136−20 38th Ave., will be helping residents fill out paperwork for the program free every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The state has received $550.9 million in federal HEAP funding, which has enabled New York to allow for those earning more to qualify for an emergency benefit, while also making available a second emergency benefit for those most in need. The increased funding will mean that a $100 regular benefit supplement can be provided to all HEAP recipients who pay directly for heat starting in January 2009.

“Under the best of circumstances, New York winters can be difficult. With continued economic uncertainty, it is not just the poor and elderly who will have a difficult time paying for the cost of heating their homes this winter,” Paterson said, while announcing the program last month. “With high energy prices still a concern, we have greatly increased heating assistance to low−income New Yorkers while expanding eligibility to those earning more, but who are still struggling to make ends meet.”

Eligibility operates on a sliding scale, however. For example, a family of four can make no more than $45,312 in annual income. Meng said it is important for residents who want to apply for the program to bring proof of income to verify their eligibility.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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