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Many brave the snow to apply for HEAP

Ashley Hirtzel

A long line of people waited to apply for the Home Energy Assistance Program in downtown Buffalo Monday morning.

Applicants started lining up around 8 a.m. for the opening day of the program, but this year they were surprised by the wet snow. Buffalo Resident Shawnkila Moss says she’s upset that people are waiting in the cold.

“It’s just pitiful. I feel like people who have kids or disabled people they should give them a scheduled day. There’s people in line with their kids, that’s pitiful. Kids get sick real quick,” said Moss.

Moss says she suggests the Department of Social Services have a warm holding area for applicants to wait. Last year, HEAP benefits were given out to more than 100,000 people in Erie County.

Mother of two Jennifer says she had no choice but to wait in the line, otherwise her gas would be shut off.

“I lost my job about six months ago. I’ve never needed any kind of assistance before, but now we’re kind of taking money from Peter to pay Paul. All of our bills are in a state of limbo and this might mean I can pay another bill. I’m not too fond of waiting in the cold, but I have to do what I have to do,” said Jennifer.

Residents were encouraged to avoid the wait by submitting their application online this year, but Buffalo Resident Kevin says it was difficult to find the application on the MyBenefits.NY.gov website. He says all he found was a printable version that you mail in.

“You might as well just stand in line, because there’s always a question with the post office of whether it gets through,”  said Kevin.

The Department of Social Services in downtown Buffalo closes at 4 p.m. Monday. HEAP benefits are given out based on income, household size, and the physical or mental ability of people living in the home.

WBFO News contacted Erie County regarding the difficulty of finding the online HEAP application, but have yet to hear back.