2015-11-18 / Political Page

Home Energy Assistance Available, Apply Now

KATZ: ‘HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE’: That’s the message Borough President Melinda Katz announced last week. Queens’ seniors will get a warm feeling all over, all winter because Katz is ready to sign them up for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).

Katz announced that residents in need of financial assistance to heat their homes all winter are “encouraged” to come to Borough Hall at 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens to apply for help from the federally-funded program.

Beginning Monday, November 16, 2015 through March 15, 2016, HEAP application assistance will be available Mondays through Wednesdays from 9 am to 5 pm in BP Katz’s office (Room 225) at Queens Borough Hall. No appointments will be accepted, but walk-in applicants will be served on a first-come first-served basis.

Representatives from the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) will be available to directly assist people with applications. Multi-language assistance will be available. US citizens and qualified immigrants can get HEAP assistance if they meet eligibility requirements.

The borough president said eligibility for HEAP is based on a point system that factors in household income, percent of income spent on energy costs, and the presence of vulnerable individuals (i.e.) children under the age of six, adults aged 60 years or older, and those with a permanent disability.

Applicants visiting the HEAP office must bring a copy of a recent utility bill as well as documentation verifying their income and rent; and the date of birth and Social Security number of each household member. A checklist of the documents that must be brought to the HEAP office is available at www/.nyc.gov/assets/hra/downloads/pdf/services/energy/_assistance/heap/pdf.

As Katz continued, individuals must apply for HEAP benefits annually. That means someone who received a HEAP grant last year must reapply again this year to receive HEAP benefits for the winter of 2015-2016. This year a family of four with a gross monthly income of $4,316 or less can receive HEAP benefits. This monthly income threshold will increase or decrease depending on the size of a household.

HEAP assistance is also available to those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Temporary Assistance or Code A Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Temporary Assistance or Code A Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In addition to helping to offset the cost of heating fuel, HEAP has an equipment repair and replacement component that can help eligible low-income homeowners repair or replace any broken heating equipment needed to keep a home’s primary heating source functional. Grants of up to $6,500 will be awarded, based on the actual cost incurred to replace or repair an applicant’s furnace, boiler and/or other essential heating equipment. Applications for such grants can be made at the Borough Hall HEAP office or at other local HEAP offices.

Additional details related to HEAP can also be obtained by calling Borough President Katz’ HEAP office at 718-286-2899 or by calling the city’s HEAP hotline at 800-692-0557.

CUOMO LAUDED FOR KILLING GAS PORT NEAR ROCKAWAY, JONES BEACH: Citing possible terrorist threats, interference with summer weekends at Jones Beach, commercial fishing, and a wind farm that could power about 700,000 homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week vetoed plans for a liquefied natural gas terminal 19 miles off Jones Beach.

After ticking off all those negatives, the governor summed up: “When you put all of these things together, the reward was not worth the risk,” according to Newsday. The governor announced his veto at a meeting of the plan’s opponents in Long Beach. The announcement drew wild cheers from the Long Island audience he addressed.

The governor’s action increases chances for the wind farm project put forward by the N.Y. Power Authority, Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). In a letter informing the federal Maritime Authority of his veto, Cuomo said the proposed gas terminal was poised to take about 20 percent of the proposed wind farm.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach, Rockaway) has been a strong supporter of the wind farm project while opposing the liquefied natural gas terminal.

Another Queens official, Councilman Costa Constantinides, (D–Astoria) Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, commended the governor’s popular action, stating: “Building a deep-water liquefied natural gas terminal off the coast of Long Island and New Jersey would have endangered many of our efforts to encourage sustainable energy sources and would have posed risks to our vital infrastructure during extreme weather.

“That’s why I commend Governor Cuomo for vetoing the proposed Port Ambrose deep-water docking terminal. As a co-sponsor of Res. 549, which called for a rejection of this proposal, I thank the Governor for his leadership on this important environmental issue.”

About five years ago, the gas terminal was proposed to be located off the New Jersey shore, but Gov. Chris Christie rejected it.

The plan was to bring the liquefied natural gas by tankers from the Caribbean and supply the downstate region with a cheaper product. But Cuomo noted al Qaeda had threatened to target such facilities. He also cited the conflicting position that the gas terminal would pose to the projected wind farm proposal. With the gas terminal out of the picture, many people in the audience who had opposed it voiced support for the wind farm. Senator Addabbo has been a strong advocate of bringing clean power into the area.

CUOMO ALSO SIGNED OFF ON OTHER WINNING DEALS: Besides winning plaudits for vetoing the liquefied natural gas terminal near Jones Beach and the Rockaways, Governor Cuomo also signed off on another blockbuster deal – the new $20 billion New York- New Jersey tunnel – and signing a bill to fast-track medical marijuana for seriously ill people; and increasing public pension benefits for men and women veterans who hold state and local government jobs.

The existing century-old Hudson rail tunnel is deteriorating and almost was put out of business after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie knew a new tunnel was needed, but they didn’t have the cash to get it done.

Then federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx relented and he agreed with Amtrak to split and cover the first $10 billion of the cost. In short order, Cuomo and Christie agreed to come up with the other $10 billion.

Cuomo stated: “I think our pledge at 50 percent was heard by the President and by the Department of Transportation. There was also some input by New York’s Senator Charles Schumer and New Jersey’s Corey Booker which helped. Federal officials have called it one of the most important infrastructure proposals in the country, according to the Times.

MALONEY: ‘WE MUST DO MORE FOR VETS’: According to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the Ranking Democrat on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, the committee released a new fact sheet outlining the economic challenges facing veterans today who served after September 11, 2001. It shows the vets “experienced a 50 percent drop in their unemployment rate over the past four years, but the youngest among them still struggle with high unemployment, poverty and homelessness.”

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated: “Post-9/11 veterans were unemployed at an average rate of 6.0 percent over the past year compared with 12.1 percent in December 2011. They remain unemployed at slightly higher rates than the entire veteran population (4.7 percent), as well as non-veterans (5.3 percent).

“But post-9/11 veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced unemployment at an average rate of 16.2 percent in 2014 – more than twice the rate for older veterans and 3.7 percentage points higher than non-veterans their age. More than one in 10 veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 lives in poverty. And young veterans were more than twice as likely to be homeless as their non-veteran counterparts.”

Continuing, Maloney said, “Post 9/11 veterans experience other challenges. Over a quarter of them live with a service-related disability. Post 9/11 female veterans have a higher average unemployment rate than their male counterparts, as well as non-veteran females.”

Maloney said the fact sheet also found that:

• Post-9/11 veterans earned about 11 percent more than their non-veteran counterparts with similar demographic characteristics.

• The unemployment rate for post-9/11 African American veterans was lower than the unemployment rate for non-veteran African Americans in 2014.

• The share of female veterans who served after 9/11 was double the share of females who served before that date.

• About 1.5 million veterans and their dependents have used GI Bill benefits to further their educations, and 30 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Another 45 percent have attended some college or earned an associate’s degree.

Maloney closed by saying, “I’m proud to represent 18,481 veterans. These men and women have sacrificed their family lives, their health, and their peace of mind to defend democracy and keep the nation safe. They have experienced pain and horrors that the rest of us could never imagine. We owe it to these courageous men and women to ensure they have good jobs when they return home and to protect them from poverty and homelessness. This Veterans Day, we must honor the service and sacrifice of American heroes by committing to address the economic challenges they continue to face.”

DROMM BIRTHDAY PARTY: Councilman Danny Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) urges everyone to “save the date” – Thursday, December 3. There’s going to be a birthday party in his honor at Club Evolution, 76-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights from 5 to 7 pm. Drop in. The Gazette wishes him a happy birthday and many, many, many returns!!

CROWLEY WELCOMES RENEWED CALL FAVORING SIKH AMERICANS: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and a leader on Sikh American issues in Congress, released a statement on the letter sent by 27 retired US military leaders encouraging the Department of Defense to allow Sikh Americans to serve in the military while maintaining articles of faith, such as a turban and beard.

Commenting on the letter, Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), who has been a leading voice in urging the US military to end its presumptive ban on Sikh Americans who wish to serve, commented:

“The support for allowing Sikh Americans to serve in our military while adhering to their religious beliefs is overwhelming, as most recently evidenced by the letter to Secretary of Defense Carter from a group of prominent retired military leaders.

Continuing, Crowley said, “We are a stronger nation, and a stronger military, because of our rich diversity. Sikh Americans love this country and want a fair chance to serve in our nation’s military – we should embrace this wish, not place restrictions on it. I will continue my efforts to end the presumptive ban on service by Sikh Americans so that those who want to serve, can serve. It is time for our military to make inclusion of practicing Sikh Americans the rule, not the exception.”

Crowley noted that last year, he and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R–NJ) led over 100 Members of Congress in a bipartisan letter to the Department of Defense urging the US armed forces to update their appearance regulations to once again allow Sikh Americans to serve while abiding by their articles of faith, such as wearing a turban or beard.

Crowley recalled that Sikhs have served in the US Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of Canada, India and the United Kingdom, among others.

Currently, he added, three Sikh Americans have been granted individualized accommodations to serve in the US Army, where they have won accolades for their service, including the Bronze Star.

Crowley noted, “These patriotic soldiers wear turbans and maintain beards in a neat and conservative manner in accordance with operational requirements. They are also able to wear protective equipment, including helmets and gas masks, in conformity with safety requirements.”

In June, Crowley said, a US District Court ruled that adherence to practicing Sikhism would not diminish the ability of a Sikh American student, Iknoor Singh, to serve in the US military. Singh, who resides in Queens, Crowley pointed out, and is a student at Hofstra University, was seeking enrollment in the US Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps.

A recognized leader in Congress on issues related to the Sikh-American community, Crowley spearheaded a multi-year, successful effort to convince the federal government to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Sikh-Americans and Hindu-Americans, an important issue brought to nationwide attention by the massacre of Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

ADDABBO THANKS/VETERANS: In anticipation of Veterans Day last week, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. was “extending a well-deserved message of appreciation to all current and retired military service members as he continues to work hard to extend the assistance given to veterans across the city and state.”

Addabbo (D–Ozone Park) a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, said he fully understands the important role “the government and legislation plays” in providing assistance to service members when they leave the armed services and become veterans.

He said he’s “always looking for ways to do my part to give our veterans the thanks and appreciation they deserve,” and that includes passing legislation to help them.

And with that Addabbo reeled off several “highlight bills” that he introduced which would benefit veterans or veteran’s organizations during the 2014-15 legislative session:

S.4233-Helps to advance the education of veterans returning from service by requiring state-run universities “to provide college course credits for any education that was part of a veteran’s military training or service, provided it meets the standards of the American Council on Education”.

S.2497A - Creates the Congressional Chartered Veterans Service Organization Fund to help connect veterans with benefits and services available to them. These benefits include: tax credits, education opportunities or health insurance, which can be difficult to access because of red tape. The bill allows New Yorkers to contribute to this fund through their income tax returns.

S.2495 – To combat the heavy financial burden that code violations place on major veterans’ organizations, “congressionally chartered vet organizations would be given a 120-day warning period to correct certain violations issued by state and city agencies before any fine can be charged.

S.2496 – Providing other financial relief for congressionally chartered vet organizations, this bill would exempt certain facilities from tax on the sale of beer, wine and soda. It would help alleviate the cost of staging events that are crucial to certain organizations’ financial future.

S.5937 – For vets who go on to work in the public sector, they would be entitled to purchase up to three years of pension credits after at least five years of work in public service. Current state laws offer the benefit covering service dating back to WW II, but vets terminated from more recent conflicts – in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Korean DMZ – would benefit by amending the law.

Addabbo notes that S.5937 has passed both legislative houses, but was “unfortunately” vetoed by Governor Cuomo last month “due to lack of adequate financial support.”

But Addabbo’s efforts on behalf of veterans doesn’t stop when he leaves Albany, he says, but continues when he returns to his district office. He singled out a summertime barbecue he hosts annually for vets outside his Howard Beach office where vets and their families can enjoy an afternoon of wining and dining and entertainment and gratitude from their community.

ADDABBO URGES HOLIDAY SHOPPERS TO PARTICIPATE IN SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY: As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, state Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. is reminding residents across the borough to take advantage of the convenience and bargains at local shops by participating in Small Business Saturday on November 28.

Celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to buy from local small businesses rather than major retailers. This year marks the fifth year of the nationwide tradition since it was started in 2010 to help draw more economic attention to smaller businesses trying to compete with national chains.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of what the major chain stores have to offer during this time of year, but it is important to also remember that we have so many wonderful shops and restaurants that are locally owned, right here in our backyards,” Addabbo said. “Every dollar spent at a local small business is a dollar that goes back into the economy here in Queens, preserving jobs for our family members and neighbors, while helping small businesses to stay open. Small businesses are the backbone of New York City, and this is a great opportunity for us all to support our city’s economy while exploring the unique products and services these shops have to offer us.”

Addabbo’s 15th Senatorial District contains hundreds of small businesses, many of which are located along major corridors, including Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard, Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Liberty Avenue.

BRAUNSTEIN SPONSORS HOLIDAY GIFT DRIVES: Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) is once again sponsoring a holiday gift drive for hospitalized veterans, as well as a toy drive for needy and hospitalized children. “My office will collect donations of new items, such as sugar-free candy, pajamas, slippers, robes, sweaters, socks, toiletries, puzzles and playing cards to support our troops and bring cheer to hospitalized veterans. These donations help show our veterans how much we appreciate the sacrifices they made for us. All gifts will be distributed to the men and women at the St. Albans VA Community Living Center, and the Veterans’ Home at St. Albans,” said Braunstein.

“I am also conducting a toy drive for needy and hospitalized children in Queens. You can participate by collecting unwrapped new toy donations,” said Braunstein.

All gifts should be delivered by Thursday, December 17 to Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at 213-33 39th Avenue, Suite 238, or Dr. William Duke’s office at 35-01 202nd Street, The Community Board 11 office at 46-21 Little Neck Parkway, or to Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service at 12-15 150th Street.

If you are interested in participating and would like to receive further information, please call Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at 718-357- 3588.

REPS. CROWLEY, CHABOT: BURMA’S ELECTIONS DEMONSTRATE ‘PROFOUND DESIRE FOR CHANGE’: Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), leaders in the House on Burma, released the statement below on November 16 on the recent elections to choose 75 percent of the country’s parliament as well as other positions:

“We congratulate the people of Burma on their elections over the weekend. By all accounts, for those who were able to vote, it was very meaningful, and we were deeply moved by the sincerity with which people cast their ballots after decades of repression. We also congratulate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy for their overall victory, as well as other parties for their participation in the elections.

“Despite the serious problems in the underlying electoral structure, the results indicate profound desire for change. We hope that the ability to provide that change is not hampered by impediments in the military-era drafted constitution, the military’s control over key ministries that exert control over much of the government, and the 25 percent of the seats in parliament automatically designated for sitting members of the military. We also remain concerned about a number of very serious human rights issues.

“We continue to believe that progress on ties between the United States and Burma should be contingent on change with respect to core human rights and democracy concerns. There is still much work to be done and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

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