New Yorkers are up in arms over word that electric rates are expected to jump between 17 and 50 percent this winter season and with as brutally cold as it gets in the Northeast, many wonder how they will be able to afford to properly heat their homes.

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New York Governor Hochul says, "My administration is working closely with partners across the state to make sure New Yorkers have access to assistance and programs that help manage these rising costs while keeping their homes warm during the colder months."

What exactly is being done to help New Yorkers? Public Service Commission Chair Rory M. Christian, at the direction of Governor Hochul, sent notice to New York's largest utility companies urging them to better their communication with customers, making sure they are fully aware of potential cost spikes so they are not blindsides. Companies have also been informed they must immediately tell customers that there may be problems obtaining home heating oil and that they should fill up their tanks as soon as possible.

Governor Hochul, aware that there may be a disruption to the availability of home heating oil, has also directed State officials to work out solutions not only to possible supply issues but to the expected increase in energy costs.

If you're a resident of New York and concerned about paying for heating, you can contact the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for tips on how to get your home winter ready and how to save on energy costs. 

Income-eligible New Yorkers qualify for reduced cost or free energy upgrades to their homes through EmPower New York and with Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® programs

Additionally, beginning on November 1, New Yorkers can apply for the state's Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). HEAP and provide up to $976 to eligible homeowners and renters. Anyone wanting to apply for HEAP should know they must meet income qualifications. To qualify, "a family of four must have a maximum gross monthly income of $5,485, or an annual gross income of $65,829."

If you don't qualify for assistance but are still concerned about not being able to heat your home this winter, you need to know that the New York State Home Energy Fair Practices Act protects you, as the consumer, when it comes to your utility rights. It might not be a bad idea to dive into the Act so that you can better understand it and the fact that you have rights including "to pay bills in installments, a cap on late fees, sufficient notice prior to shut-off of services, and protections for those on a fixed income or with medical conditions."

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